WHO 'assuming' that coronavirus will continue to spread over summer

All countries should make containing the coronavirus outbreak their ‘top priority’, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said, as it warned that the global community cannot bank on the spread fading over summer.

The organisation stressed that slowing down the epidemic allows hospitals to prepare and saves lives, urging the world to ‘stand together’.

As the global total case numbers passed 100,000, WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news briefing: ‘(The epidemic) is geographically expanding and deeply concerning.

‘We are continuing to recommend that all countries make containment their highest priority. In a globalised world, the only option is to stand together.’

Asked whether the virus may not spread as easily in Europe’s warm summer months, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s emergencies programme, said: ‘We do not know yet what the activity or the behaviour of this virus will be in different climatic conditions. We have to assume that the virus will continue to have the capacity to spread.’

He added: ‘It is a false hope to say yes it will just disappear in summertime, like influenza virus…There is no evidence right now to suggest that that will happen.’

There have been suggestions from other experts that the spread of the virus could fade during the warmer months – before potentially reappearing when colder weather returns.

The WHO’s revelations come as Italy’s death toll reached 197 and case numbers passed 4,600.

Coronavirus is expected to be confirmed as the cause of another death in Britain shortly.

Meanwhile Iran’s death toll from coronavirus infections jumped on Friday to 124, as 17 died and more than 1,000 new cases were diagnosed over 24 hours, the health ministry said.

Dr Ryan said that Iran’s rapidly spreading outbreak resembled China and South Korea which quickly uncovered more cases as they began to do active disease surveillance.

He continued: ‘But I also think the Iranian system is switching on. We are seeing a much more all-of-government approach…with a national action plan now, with 100,000 workers committed to this plan.

‘It is much better that we understand the extent of the problem. So we commend the move towards more aggressive, targeted surveillance and we hope that will lead to the kind of control measures that will help push this virus back.’

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