Tedros Adhanom, PhD, director general of WHO, concluded his statements in the WHO press conference by reiterating that while 2019-nCoV is of global concern, it should not lead to widespread panic.
Following the most cases of coronavirus (2019-nCoV) confirmed within a single day, the World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a strategy preparedness and response plan to support countries. This initiative includes a requested $675 million from the global community.1
According to Tedros Adhanom, PhD, director general of WHO, during a press conference on Wednesday, the most confirmed cases in a single day, since the virus was first detected in December 2019, occurred over 24 hours ending 12 am EST this morning. He did not provide a number for the cases confirmed on Tuesday, but said the overall number of 2019-nCoV cases in China has reached 24,363, and the total number of deaths is 490. Approximately 80% of the cases are in Hubei Province, the epicenter of the outbreak.1
Outside of China, there are 194 cases of 2019-nCoV in 24 countries, and there has been 1 death in the Philippines.1 Globally, 31 cases are in patients with no travel history to China, although Adhanom noted that all cases outside of China have had close contact to someone with a travel history to China.1
Like previous press conferences, Adhanom emphasized that the greatest concern is for countries with weaker health systems. “We’re only as strong as the weakest link,” he said.1
To aid those countries, WHO’s strategy preparedness and response plan includes financial aid, equipment, and medical assistance. The $675 million requested by the organization would fund the plan for the next 3 months. WHO intends for $60 million of that money to fund its operations, while the rest will go to at-risk countries.1
Adhanom added that the WHO has already released $9 million from its own contingency fund, as well as half a million masks, more than 350,000 pairs of gloves, 40,000 respirators, and almost 18,000 isolation gowns from their warehouses.1
“We cannot defeat this outbreak without solidarity,” Adhanom said. “Political solidarity, technical solidarity, and financial solidarity.”1
The global health community is already responding to 2019-nCoV.
Among the efforts is an offer from Gilead Sciences for the experimental use of the investigational compound remdesivir, to be tested in a small number of patients with 2019-nCoV for emergency treatment in the absence of any approved treatment options.2 Remdesivir has demonstrated in vitro and in vivo activity in animal models against MERS and SARS, which are structurally similar coronaviruses. According to Gilead, the drug has also shown limited clinical data in emergency use for patients with Ebola virus infection.2
Financial aid has also been extended, including $100 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.3 Adhanom mentioned this donation specifically in the press conference, saying it serves as an example of the global commitment to handling the 2019-nCoV outbreak.
“Multilateral organizations, national governments, the private sector, and philanthropies must work together to slow the pace of the outbreak, help countries protect their most vulnerable citizens, and accelerate the development of the tools to bring this epidemic under control, said Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman in a statement.3
In the United States, the FDA has issued an emergency use authorization for the CDC’s 2019-nCoV test. Until now, the test has been limited to use at CDC laboratories, but the new authorization allows use of the test at any CDC-qualified lab in the country.4
“This continues to be an evolving situation, and the ability to distribute this diagnostic test to qualified labs is a critical step forward in protecting the public health,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, MD, in a prepared statement.4
The CDC test is a reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test that provides presumptive detection of 2019-nCoV from respiratory secretions, such as nasal or oral swabs.4 Negative tests do not preclude infection with 2019-nCoV, however, and the test should not be used as the sole basis for treatment or other patient management decisions.4
Adhanom concluded his statements in the WHO press conference by reiterating that while 2019-nCoV is of global concern, it should not lead to widespread panic.
“We understand that people are worried and concerned, and rightly so,” Adhanom said. “But this is not a time for fear, this is not a time for panic. It’s a time for rational, evidence-based action, and investment while we still have a window of opportunity to being this outbreak under control.”1