Covid-19 cases, increasing deaths; debt relief required for poorer countries: WHO

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On Wednesday, the World Health Organization head expressed deep concern at the rapid development and global spread of COVID-19 cases from the new coronavirus, which has now crossed 205 countries and territories.

Director-General of the WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said his organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund sponsored debt relief to help developing countries cope with the social and economic effects of the pandemic.

“The number of new cases has increased almost exponentially over the past five weeks and the number of deaths has more than doubled over the past week,” Tedros told a virtual news conference at the Geneva headquarters of the organization.

 

“We’ll cross 1 million confirmed cases and 50,000 deaths worldwide over the next few days,” he said.

China, where the coronavirus outbreak first occurred in December, announced diminishing new infections on Wednesday and disclosed the number of asymptomatic cases for the first time, which may complicate how outbreak patterns are understood.

Asked about the award, Dr. Maria ver Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist who was part of an international team that went to China in February, said that the WHO interpretation included laboratory-confirmed cases “regardless of symptom growth”

“In particular, from data we have seen from China, we know that some 75 percent of those who are diagnosed, who are classified as asymptomatic, actually develop symptoms,” she said, identifying them as “pre-symptomatic.” The new coronavirus triggers COVID-19 in the respiratory state.

The epidemic appears to be driven by people who display symptoms of illness like fever and cough, but catching the “broad spectrum of illness” is important to the WHO, she said.

Tedros welcomed India’s $22.6 billion economic stimulus package to provide free food rations for 800 million vulnerable people, cash transfers to 204 million poor women and free cooking gas for 80 million households over the next three months, announced after a 21-day lockdown imposed last week.

“Together with the World Bank and the IMF, what we are proposing is an expedited mechanism of helping countries so that their economies do not get into recession and their populations do not really get into a recession,” he said.

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