Coronavirus Update: February 27, 2020

Editor’s note: All facts and figures in this blog are current as of February 27, 2020. We will regularly update this blog as the situation evolves and new data becomes available.

The outbreak of novel coronavirus, now officially known as COVID-19, continues to grow. For the first time since it began in December 2019, more new cases have been reported outside of China than inside. A total of 46 countries now have confirmed cases, and while new cases in China seem to be slowing down, countries like South Korea and Italy are experiencing sharp rises in case counts. COVID-19 cases have now been confirmed on every continent except for Antarctica.

The latest data show:

  • Globally, there are more than 82,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
  • There are now almost 4,000 confirmed cases outside of China in 46 different countries.
  • Algeria, the first country in the AFRO Region, reported its first case of COVID-19 on February 26.
  • Nine new countries have reported cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
  • There have been more than 2,800 deaths reported (57 of which have been outside of China).

Prepare, but Don’t Panic

While seeing case counts rise and the disease spread to countries is understandably worrisome for people, it is important to understand what the science is telling us. If you are not in an area where COVID-19 is spreading, have not travelled to one of those areas, or are not in close contact with someone who is feeling unwell, your risk of getting the novel coronavirus is low.

The World Health Organization (WHO), other UN agencies, country governments, and local health officials are all working closely together to try and prevent, detect, and contain the COVID-19 outbreak and ensure the public is getting accurate, up-to-date information. You can access WHO’s Frequently Asked Questions to learn more.

Health officials globally are urging people to prepare for the chance COVID-19 could come to your community, but not panic. WHO and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are both encouraging schools, businesses, and other institutions to review their preparedness plans and ensure transparent communications with their communities. Knee-jerk reactions such as buying up all personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks and gowns only exacerbate the problem. If PPE isn’t available for other at-risk populations like frontline health workers, the elderly, or those with weak immune systems, the public is actually more at risk to disease spread.

Experts agree: The best thing you can do to keep you and your family safe is practice basic public health measures. These include covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze and cough, stay home when you are sick, and wash your hands.

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhenom Ghebreysus this week reiterated that “it’s never too early to prepare” even for countries that don’t have many or any cases of COVID-19. WHO also just released a new preparedness guide for workplaces and has urged all organizations to be sure they are prepared to deal with a potential outbreak, even if the virus has not yet hit their community. This message was also echoed by CDC guidance from this week, which heavily emphasized preparedness at the local, community, and workplace levels and called for people to start taking steps to prepare now, not wait.

Ongoing Coordination and Global Response

Amid U.S. stock market freefalls due to the growing COVID-19 outbreak, the U.S. Government and many other WHO member states are stepping up their response. This week, the White House asked the U.S. Congress for an emergency supplemental at least $2.5 billion to support COVID-19 preparedness and response, which many Democrats and Republicans alike agree will not be enough. While it is great to see the President’s commitment to addressing the outbreak, it’s important that the proposed COVID-19 funds do not use vital resources already earmarked for response to other ongoing global threats like Ebola.

WHO and other UN agencies continue to coordinate globally in order to help countries prepare and contain the escalating outbreak, and mitigate damage to vital industries. WHO is using its international network of labs to assist in detection of COVID-19 around the world, a vital step in controlling spread of the outbreak. Additionally, in a joint statement with the World Tourism Organization, WHO reiterated the need for international cooperation and evidence-based decision making as the tourism and travel industries deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. Both organizations urged the tourism industry to be sure to be measured and consistent in their response, ensuring it is aligned with the level of the public health threat and local risk assessments, as well as WHO guidance and recommendations. This is especially important as many parts of the tourism industry are dealing with significant losses and negative consequences as a result of non-informed decisions.

As the world’s attention is turned to COVID-19, it is imperative that global leaders turn this interest into action to step up overall global preparedness for disease outbreaks, and strengthen health systems to handle both routine illnesses and unexpected needs. Countries and the private sector should continue to invest in stronger health systems with robust funding for cornerstones like routine immunization services, primary health care, and health workers.

Coronavirus Update: February 13, 2020

Editor’s note: All facts and figures in this blog are current as of February 13, 2020. We will regularly update this blog as the situation evolves and new data becomes available.

The novel coronavirus outbreak, now officially known as COVID-19, continues to evolve as globally confirmed cases have risen to nearly 47,000. While the majority of cases still remain in China, the world is answering the call to increase preparedness, investments in research and development, and global coordination through the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations (UN) system.

The latest data show:

  • Globally, there are nearly 47,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
  • There are now almost 500 confirmed cases outside of China in 24 different countries.
  • No new countries have reported cases of COVID-19 since February 4, 2020.
  • There have been more than 1,100 deaths reported (all except one death have been in China).
  • China is reporting a rapid rise in cases—nearly 15,000 overnight—now that it is reporting clinically diagnosed cases (which are made using a chest x-ray) in addition to laboratory-confirmed cases. WHO will continue to report only laboratory-confirmed cases in their daily situation reports.

UN Crisis Response Activated

To accelerate efforts to mitigate the likelihood of a global pandemic, the UN has taken swift measures to ensure a coordinated response at its highest levels in an effort to help contain COVID-19. WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus has briefed all WHO country representatives, UN resident country coordinators, as well as the senior UN leadership team, including UN Secretary-General António Gutteres on the ongoing outbreak. Additionally, the UN established an integrated Crisis Management Team specifically dedicated to COVID-19, which WHO is leading.  This team will help WHO focus on the health response, while allowing other UN agencies, like the World Food Programme or the International Maritime Organization, to bring their expertise to bear on the wider social, economic and developmental implications of the outbreak. This coordination across the UN system and high-level engagement will be critical to help stem the tide of the outbreak and ensure people’s needs beyond urgent health needs are being met.

WHO has also sent an advanced team made up of global experts to Beijing to help prepare an international mission to better inform the public health response to contain the virus. The team will work with Chinese specialists to learn more about COVID-2019, transmission, barriers to care and containment, and additional issues that can help scale up prevention, detection, and response efforts.

Experts Set COVID-19 Research Priorities

From February 11 to 12, WHO convened more than 300 global experts and funders at its Geneva headquarters at a research and innovation forum focused on COVID-19. The forum, launched as part of the WHO Research & Development Blueprint, was created to understand the current level of knowledge about the new COVID-19 disease, identify gaps, and foster collaboration to accelerate and fund priority research to contain COVID-19, as well as prepare for any future disease outbreaks.

“This outbreak is a test of solidarity — political, financial and scientific. We need to come together to fight a common enemy that does not respect borders, ensure that we have the resources necessary to bring this outbreak to an end and bring our best science to the forefront to find shared answers to shared problems. Research is an integral part of the outbreak response.” –WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Out of the meeting, a set of urgent priorities for research to help prevent, detect, and respond to COVID-19 emerged. The meeting also allowed funders and scientists to coordinate and align efforts and funding streams, ensuring more efficient—and likely faster—research to help control this outbreak. The meeting also underscored the need for ongoing collaboration and transparency, especially with low- and middle-income countries, to ensure equitable access to any tools developed for the COVID-219 response.

WHO and the broader UN system are working diligently to ensure that global cooperation is the bedrock of the response to this novel coronavirus. As the outbreak continues, it will be imperative to rely on global solidarity and collective action in order to stop this virus, as well as prepare our world to better handle future global health threats.

Editor’s note: All facts and figures in this blog are current as of February 4, 2020. We will regularly update this blog as the situation evolves and new data becomes available.

As the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has spread to 23 different countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) continues to accelerate is overall response, in partnership with and in support of countries looking to prepare for, detect, and respond to this growing outbreak.  Among the new priorities in response is addressing the growing “infodemic”—an overabundance of information, some accurate and some not, which is making it difficult for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable information. 

The latest data show:

  • Globally, there are more than 20,600 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus.
  • The majority of cases remain in China; However, there are now nearly 160 confirmed cases outside of China in 23 different countries.
  • There has been a total of 426 deaths reported. The first recorded death outside of China as a result of 2019-nCoV occurred in the Philippines.
  • Most infections have resulted from contact with someone who was symptomatic; However, there is a slight chance of asymptomatic infection occurring and more data on cases is being gathered to inform the public health response.


Novel Coronavirus Top of Mind as WHO Executive Board Meets

Novel coronavirus has already been featured prominently on the agenda as the WHO Executive Board meets this week in Geneva. In his report to the Executive Board, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros addressed novel coronavirus, and several member states at the meeting made interventions acknowledging the outbreak in the opening session, many of which applauded China’s response. Additionally, member states have affirmed their commitment to work with, and through, WHO on various aspects of the response: from accelerating preparedness, to addressing research and development gaps, to improving surveillance. WHO continues to urge all member states to transparently share information on the virus with WHO, as per the agreement under the International Health Regulations. The Executive Board is expected to continue discussions on 2019-nCoV during a specific emergencies-focused session later this week.

How WHO is Combatting Misinformation

To deal with the novel coronavirus “infodemic,” WHO has redoubled its efforts to ensure the public can access timely and accurate information. Through its headquarters in Geneva as well as its regional offices and partners all over the world, WHO is working around the clock to identify false information which can harm the public and swiftly refute it with accurate, evidence-based information.

The following resources are now available to the public:

  • A digital dashboard that tracks the number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases globally, broken down by countries, provinces, regions, and cities.
  • A Q&A on coronaviruses, which answers many of the common questions WHO is seeing in the public.
  • A myth busters webpage, which dispels a lot of misinformation and rumors that are circulating about how 2019-nCoV spreads and how to prevent it.

These resources are particularly important to ensure that the public is well-informed to protect themselves and limit the spread of the virus. They are also vital to helping limit false information, which is unfortunately fueling a large wave of racism and xenophobia towards Chinese people and those of Asian descent.

While it’s understandable that the public is clamoring for information about the novel coronavirus, it is important that people are using trusted sources with fact-based information and not allowing fear to fuel prejudice.

As Dr. Tedros said last week:

“This is the time for facts, not fear. This is the time for science, not rumors. This is the time for solidarity, not stigma.”

Now is the time to use the tools we have: our best science, our global ability to share information, and our collective cooperation under the UN system to ensure we can contain these outbreaks. If we let misinformation and panic take hold, we will limit our ability to create a global solution for what could potentially grow to a global epidemic.

January 30, 2020 Update

New cases of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) are still spreading within China and to a growing number of additional countries. As a result, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus called for the independent panel of experts to reconvene and discuss the merits of officially declaring the evolving situation a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Following the panel’s almost unanimous recommendation, Dr. Tedros officially declared a PHEIC on January 30.

The latest data shows:

  • Globally, more than 7,800 cases of the novel coronavirus confirmed, with another almost 12,200 suspected.
  • There are now more than 80 confirmed cases outside of China in 18 different countries.
  • There have been 8 confirmed cases of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus in 4 countries outside of China.
  • 1 in 5 confirmed cases are classified as “severe.” There have been 170 deaths reported, all located in China.

Public Health Emergency of International Concern Declared

During a press conference on January 30, Dr. Tedros made it clear that the decision to declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) was not a signal of a lack of confidence in China’s current response; instead, he underscored it was a necessary measure put in place to be better able to stop the spread of 2019-nCOV and ensure that countries, especially those with weak health systems, are prepared for the potential for an outbreak to occur.

“We don’t know what sort of damage this virus could do if it were to spread in a country with a weaker health system. We must act now to help countries prepare for that possibility,” said Dr. Tedros.

A PHEIC declaration will now allow WHO to take on a greater global leadership role to try and stop the virus from spreading and ensure strong global coordination. Under the International Health Regulations, a PHEIC unlocks the ability for WHO to:

  • Take a greater leadership role in recommending and implementing public health measures to control the spread of the virus;
  • Hold countries to account on any additional measures they may want to individually implement regarding travel, trade, quarantine, or screening measures which may have unintentional negative impacts on a variety of things, including economies;
  • Foster collaboration and information sharing to enhance research efforts for potential prevention and treatment tools;
  • Increase global coordination and anticipation surrounding potential economic impacts as a result of the outbreaks;
  • And perhaps most importantly, provide critical support to vulnerable states with weak or ill-prepared health systems.

Underscoring the Importance of Preparedness

Enhancing WHO’s ability to help low- and middle-income countries prepare for potential pandemics is one of the most essential parts of the PHEIC.

As Executive Director of WHO’s Emergencies Programme, Dr. Mike Ryan said on January 29, “people only really consider preparedness when we’re faced with a fire, with a crisis. But we do have to address that much more…Just responding is not enough.”

The International Health Regulations framework allows WHO to now take increased measures under the PHEIC which will enable the global community of scientists, public health practitioners, and policymakers to come together and support one another in efforts to combat this disease outbreak by increasing detection, prevention, and containment measures. All 165 countries, under the coordination and leadership of WHO, will all play a vital role in trying to stop this disease in its tracks.

“The only way we will defeat this outbreak is for all countries to work together in the spirit of cooperation,” said Dr. Tedros. “This is the time for facts, not fear. This is the time for science, not rumors. This is the time for solidarity, not stigma.”

The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak continues to grow as World Health Organization (WHO) leaders, including WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus, traveled to China and met with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

WHAT The latest data shows

  • Globally, nearly 4,600 cases of the novel coronavirus confirmed, with another 4,500 suspected.
  • There are now nearly 60 confirmed cases outside of China in 14 different countries.
  • Confirmed cases classified as “severe” have now jumped to approximately 20%. There have been more than 100 deaths reported.
  • Concerns mount globally of transmission to low- and middle-income countries, including African countries, which may not be able to adequately respond to a potential outbreak given other disease threats and weak health systems.


WHO’s Response

  • Tedros and other WHO leaders met with President Xi Jinping in Beijing on January 28 to share information on the current Chinese response to the outbreak and underscore their collective commitment to controlling the novel coronavirus.
  • During the meeting, Dr. Tedros said, “Stopping the spread of this virus both in China and globally is WHO’s highest priority.”
  • Both WHO and Chinese representatives noted that the growing number of cases being reported, including those outside China, is highly concerning. They also underscored that need for further information about where the coronavirus came from and how it’s being transmitted is needed to help guide prevention and containment efforts.
  • WHO also is launching a new Global 2019-nCoV Clinical Data Platform to allow Member States (countries) to share and contribute anonymous clinical data about the coronavirus to help inform the global public health response.
  • WHO has also created updated guidance for clinical care as well as a standardized case reporting form to help prevent cases from spreading and ensure reporting is as accurate as possible.

January 26, 2020 Update

The UN’s global health agency, the World Health Organization (WHO), plays a central role in coordinating the world’s efforts to prevent, detect, and respond to global health crises—like the current global outbreak of a novel coronavirus (temporarily called 2019-n-COV). Over the last week, the number of confirmed cases of 2019 n-COV has risen dramatically, as have the number of countries reporting cases. This past weekend, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus flew to China to consult with officials there, as Chinese authorities moved to further contain the spread of the virus by quarantining people in several cities. WHO has been working continuously to respond to a threat that could become a global illness.

Guided by an international agreement signed by all governments called the International Health Regulations (IHRs), WHO is working at all levels, including with local and national Chinese authorities at the center of the 2019-nCOV outbreak. To aid all governments in preparation for, detection of, and response to, this novel coronavirus, among other things, WHO is:

  • Creating guidance for how to diagnose the virus, how to manage cases, and how to prevent infection and spread;
  • Creating a blueprint to guide all research and development efforts of diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics;
  • Connecting surveillance (disease detection) efforts across all countries and modeling what potential spread of the disease could look like;
  • Providing direct technical assistance and advice to countries that ask for it

Additionally, WHO is the global body which declares whether an outbreak is an international emergency. The Director-General of WHO has the authority to convene the independent group of experts that assesses whether a disease outbreak constitutes a global emergency, something called a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Last week, WHO convened their group of independent experts who determined, with the data available to them, that the coronavirus outbreak did not meet the level of a PHEIC. However, these assessments can change over time as the progress of the disease shifts and more information becomes available, and the Emergency Committee agreed to reconvene as necessary, even in a matter of days. Below, you can read more about how emergency declarations are made.


What We Know About the Coronavirus Outbreak

(as of January 26, 2020)

  • Since the virus appeared in China at the end of December 2019, more than 2,000 cases have been reported globally, the majority of which are located in China.
  • The virus has now spread to 10 other countries—Japan, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, Singapore, France, Nepal, Australia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the United States. Nearly all of the cases are linked to travel from Wuhan, where the outbreak was first detected.
  • The disease most likely began in animals which was then transmitted to humans through exposure in local markets. The virus now seems to also be spreading from humans to humans, given an increasing number of cases in health workers who are treating patients and a potential case of a family member to family member transmission.
  • While the virus has killed 56 people so far, the morality rate for cases is fairly low at nearly 3%. Roughly 16% of the reported cases are classified as “severe.”

The UN’s role in keeping the world healthy and safe from disease

We know that diseases don’t respect borders. We also know, thanks to a recent UN report, that the world is long overdue and unfortunately woefully under-prepared to handle a global disease pandemic. In the face of emerging disease threats like this novel coronavirus, global cooperation is key to ensuring people stay healthy and safe.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has made it its primary mission to keep the world’s people healthy and help them thrive. As part of this work, in 2005, WHO created a global agreement which outlines shared responsibilities and obligations of countries around the world faced with disease outbreaks, known as the International Health Regulations (IHR). Since then, every single Member State (country) of WHO has signed onto this legally binding agreement.

The IHRs are among the UN’s most important contributions to keeping the world safe. By signing the IHRs, countries have agreed to build their own capacities to detect, prevent and respond to emerging health threats. The IHRs also establish important norms and guidelines to share and secure virus samples to help global efforts to develop countermeasures and response plans. WHO is an indispensable part of the success of the IHRs, serving to advise and support countries in fulfilling their own obligations to the treaty, and serving as a trusted broker in monitoring and supporting response plans.

WHO has also led in adapting the IHRs in order to meet ever-changing needs based on evolving global and disease contexts. Following the 2014-2016 West African Ebola outbreak, it became clear that WHO needed to make changes to IHR-relevant procedures to be more responsive to the diverse needs of health workers, community members, global leaders, and other key stakeholders. In the last four years, WHO established a new World Health Emergencies Programme, operating at country, regional and global levels, to more nimbly and holistically assess, monitor, and respond to the needs of evolving epidemics like novel coronavirus.

Among the functions the IHRs established, an independent panel of experts convenes whenever disease outbreaks of epidemic or pandemic potential occur to determine if a PHEIC should be declared. A PHEIC declaration is weighed very carefully by experts based on several contextual factors, including epidemiological data on the disease, and based on an evidence-informed assessment of whether an outbreak may spread beyond national borders and require an international response.

As new threats like novel coronavirus emerge, its critical to have a strong, well-supported global system of cooperation. No country can face disease outbreaks like 2019-n-COV alone, and organizations like WHO and the UN are vital to ensuring the right people and resources are available to try and contain these illnesses and keep people safe. Diseases move across borders in an instant, and our only hope to rapidly fight back is to work together to ensure the health and well-being of everyone around the world.