Europe becomes epicenter of coronavirus pandemic: World Health Organization chief

Monday, 16 Mar, 2020

Europe is now the "epicentre" of the global coronavirus pandemic as it aggressively spreads through the continent - at the same time as it has slowed in China - the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

"This can happen with any country", - said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday finally declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic and urged countries to take urgent and aggressive action to contain the spread.

Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared on Wednesday that the global coronavirus crisis is now a pandemic. "In the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has tripled".

Tedros said such measures could help, but stressed that countries must take "a comprehensive approach".

The majority of cases have been in China where the outbreak first emerged in December, but as the number of new infections has steadied in the country, hotspots have emerged elsewhere - namely Italy, Iran and Spain. The government has subsequently imposed the strictest lockdown in Europe, with all shops apart from pharmacies and those stocking food now closed. "It can happen to any country". According to World Health Organization data, on Thursday, there were 2,313 newly reported cases in Italy, 495 in France, 501 in Spain and 271 in Germany.

"Our grandfathers were drafted to go to war; we're being asked to stay at home".

Some other European countries have placed a ban on large public gatherings as a way to limit the spread.

The Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund, which will be run by the UN Foundation in the United States and the Swiss Philanthropy Foundation, kicked off on Friday with a range of multi-million-dollar donations from Facebook, Google and others.

This comes months after the virus, officially known as COVID-19, was first detected in Wuhan, China.

"We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic".

Don't just look at the top-line numbers: Doing so "does not tell the full story", the director-general said.

The WHO said it shipped supplies of personal protective equipment to 56 countries, and is shipping to a further 28 countries, and it sent nearly 1.5 million diagnostic tests to 120 countries.