As the number of COVID-19 cases worldwide has surpassed 100,000, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Saturday called for joint global efforts to effectively halt the spread of the epidemic.
by Xinhua writer Guo Yage
BEIJING, March 8 (Xinhua) -- As the number of COVID-19 cases worldwide has surpassed 100,000, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Saturday called for joint global efforts to effectively halt the spread of the epidemic.
While more countries are following the WHO guideline and have switched to an anti-virus mode, China, which has made remarkable headway in its fight against the outbreak, is sharing its experience with the world and conducting active international cooperation amid a hike in global caseload.
By 1500 GMT on Saturday, data from the WHO showed that a total of 103,168 cases have been reported in 95 countries, areas or territories, with 22,355 being outside China.
Among the four countries or areas reporting their first cases in the previous 24 hours, the case in Moldova involves a woman who returned to the country on Saturday by plane from Italy.
Malta confirmed its first case in a 12-year-old girl who visited northern Italy in late February and early March with her family.
Besides, the Maldives reported its first two cases in employees of its Kuredu Island Resort, whereas the transmission type of the first case in the Holy See, jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome, is still under investigation.
South Korean army soldiers in protective suits sterilize the Kim Kwangseok street in Daegu, South Korea, March 5, 2020. (Photo by Lee Sang-ho/Xinhua)
Among some of the worst-hit countries, South Korea reported a total of 7,134 cases with 50 deaths on Saturday, up by 367. The country has raised its four-tier virus alert to the highest level, and designated Daegu, the epicenter of the viral outbreak in the country, and its neighboring county to the south, Cheongdo, as "special care zones."
Japan has reported 463 local cases by Saturday, in addition to 696 cases linked to the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was previously quarantined near Tokyo.
The Japanese government has announced that tests for COVID-19 will be covered under Japan's national health insurance system starting from Friday, and that it is planning to implement a special law valid until February 2022 to make better provisions to combat the outbreak and declare a state of emergency if necessary.
Iran on Saturday reported a total of 5,823 cases with 145 deaths. The country has already shut down schools until April, while the authorities have advised people to avoid inter-city trips.
By Saturday, Italy has confirmed 5,061 cases with 233 deaths. The government on Sunday decided to keep in quarantine the entire Lombardy region and a number of northern provinces, and close theaters, cinemas and museums across the country.
Staff of Iran's Ministry of Health and Medical Education arrange boxes of masks donated by China in Tehran, Iran, on Feb. 25, 2020. (Photo by Ahmad Halabisaz/Xinhua)
The WHO has recommended that affected countries immediately activate the highest level of national response management protocols, as well as prioritize case finding, testing and isolation, contact tracing, and the quarantine of close contacts.
"Allowing uncontrolled spread should not be a choice of any government, as it will harm not only the citizens of that country but affect other countries as well," the WHO said Saturday in a statement.
Amid the organization's warnings, many countries have rolled out control and prevention measures to tackle the challenge.
As Egypt reported a dramatic increase of 33 new cases on Saturday, the Suez Canal Economic Zone announced the postponement of an international economic and investment forum previously scheduled for March 21-22.
The Palestinian Health Ministry announced Friday a series of strict measures to be taken in the city of Bethlehem and the West Bank as a whole, including the closure of churches, mosques, schools and universities. It has reported a total 19 cases by Saturday.
According to real-time data maintained by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, the caseload in the United States has topped 420 with 17 deaths as of Saturday night.
A pedestrian walks past a "no masks" notice of a drug store in New York, the United States, March 7, 2020. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)
The U.S. states of Washington, Florida, California, Hawaii, Maryland, Indiana and New York have all declared a state of emergency. Stanford University and the University of Washington have canceled on-campus classes.
Besides, the U.S. government has announced a plan to bring the Grand Princess cruise ship in connection with the first reported death of COVID-19 in California to a non-commercial port and keep the infected passengers in quarantine at a U.S. military base.
During a meeting on Friday, health ministers of the 27 European Union (EU) member states agreed to develop a coordinated approach to prevention and protection of people at risk, and establish coherent containment measures, including evidence-based advice concerning travel to and from risky areas.
To find the best way to contain a further spread of COVID-19, many countries have turned their eyes to China's anti-epidemic experience.
Chile announced earlier this week that it will send experts to China.
"China's situation is extraordinarily important, because the measures they have applied -- mainly measures of public health, community awareness and controlling contact -- are working," said Chilean Health Minister Jaime Manalich.
Bruce Aylward, an epidemiologist who led an advance team from the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks during a press conference of the China-WHO joint expert team in Beijing, capital of China, Feb. 24, 2020. (Xinhua/Xing Guangli)
Bruce Aylward, team leader of the China-WHO joint mission on COVID-19, told The New York Times that China's counterattack can be replicated but requires speed, money, imagination and political courage.
Charles Powell, a member of Britain's House of Lords and chairman of the Said Business School at Oxford University, said other countries have tried to imitate China's response on a much smaller scale.
"One is seeing how the Italian government is trying to isolate two parts of the country and whether it will work. I think people respect China's reaction," he said.
In its latest move to push for global cooperation on fighting the outbreak, China announced on Saturday its decision to donate 20 million dollars to the WHO.
Last week, Chinese health authorities held a video conference with experts from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia, Turkmenistan and the secretariat of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to share China's experience.
Soldiers check people's information at a checkpoint in Lombardy region, Italy, on Feb. 27, 2020. (Xinhua)
According to China's EU mission, two video conferences on COVID-19 have been held between officials and experts from China and the EU, with the first on Feb. 12 and the second on Feb. 26.
Since a team of five Chinese health experts arrived at the Iranian capital of Tehran on Feb. 29, they have been learning the epidemic situation on the ground, exchanging experience with the Iranian side, and promoting bilateral cooperation on medicine and health.
It sets "an excellent example of 'peer to peer' experience sharing," said Maria van Kerkhove, technical lead for the WHO's Health Emergencies Program, adding the WHO is looking forward to seeing more direct interaction of that kind.
(Video reporters: Du Yang, Liu Qu, Li Xiaopeng, Li Baodong, Li Haitao, Pan Geping, Zhao Yuchao, Han Chong, Zhang Baoping, Jiang Xintong, Jiang Chao, Ali Jaswal, Tariq Hameed, Yu Jiaxin, Zhang Dailei, Liang Xizhi, Jiang Bowen, Lu Qinxin, Guo Wei, Lu Rui, Tian Ming, Jin Haomin, Ji Li, Roberto Ferranti; Video Editors: Ma Ruxuan, Chen Sihong)