COVID-19 latest: Don’t ‘panic’ says EU health chief as cases climb faster than China

COVID-19 latest: Don’t ‘panic’ says EU health chief as cases climb faster than China

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Europe must not “give in to panic” over the spread of COVID-19, the EU’s health commissioner warned on Wednesday as countries scrambled to contain the biggest cluster of infections outside Asia.
Greece and Brazil confirmed their first coronavirus cases, a day after the virus spread to Switzerland, Austria, Croatia and mainland Spain — and the WHO announced more new infections outside China than inside for the first time.
“This is a situation of concern but we must not give in to panic,” Stella Kyriakides said in Rome. “We must also be vigilant when it comes to misinformation and disinformation as well as xenophobic statements which are misleading citizens and putting in question the work of public authorities.”
The Greek health ministry said a 38-year-old woman in Thessaloniki, who had recently travelled to Italy, tested positive for the virus. People who came in contact with her are voluntarily entering quarantine.
Watch a live interview with virus expert DavidHeymann, who led the World Health Organisation response to SARS, in the player above.
In France, the French health ministry said a 60-year-old local man had died overnight, becoming the first French citizen to die. Previously, an 80-year-old Chinese tourist had died in Paris.
Meanwhile, a COVID-19 patient is in critical condition in Germany and authorities in Austria placed an apartment complex in the southern town of Bad Kleinkirchheim under quarantine after the death overnight of a 56-year-old woman from northern Italy.
WHO chief Tedros Ghebreyesus said the number of new COVID-19 cases around the world on Tuesday was 427 compared to only 411 inside China, where the outbreak began.
He said there were new cases linked to Iran in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Oman, and new cases linked to Italy in Algeria, Austria, Croatia, Germany, mainland Spain and Switzerland.
A joint team of WHO and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control officials has travelled to Rome to review Italy’s public health measures and that a separate WHO team would travel to Iran this weekend “to provide support,” he added.
The health ministry of North Rhine-Westphalia state a man in Erkelenz, near the Dutch border, was hospitalized on Monday.
The man, reported to be in his 40s, was moved to Dusseldorf’s University Hospital after being diagnosed with the virus, while his wife was isolated after showing symptoms.
Stephan Pusch, who heads the district administration in Heinsberg, where Erkelenz is located, said schools and kindergartens in the area would be shut for the day.
Meanwhile, Dutch health officials said they were tracing the movements of the man after learning that he visited the southern province of Limburg last week. The Netherlands doesn’t yet have any confirmed cases of the virus.
Bruce Aylward, head of WHO mission to China and who recently returned from Wuhan, played down reports that a large number of COVID-19 carriers with mild symptoms could be spreading the virus without knowing they were infected.
“There is not huge transmission beyond what you can actally see clinically,” he told reporters in Geneva. “All the data that we have suggests there isn’t this massive iceberg.”
Asked about online theories that the true death toll in China is in the millions, he said: “I didn’t go to every single place, every corner of China, but we have a pretty good sense of what this epidemic looks like and [our] numbers are reflective of that.”
The UN has reported a suspected case involving a staff member at the Vienna International Centre Medical Service.
Virus expert David Heymann, who previously led the World Health Organisation’s response to the SARS outbreak, praised the scientific community’s response during a discussion at Chatham House, a think tank in the UK.
Comparing the level of collaboration now with what occured during the SARS outbreak, he said the “good thing” about the response to this outbreak was the rapid peer review, and free access to published works by scientists.
Asked how family members could protect themselves from infection, if caring for an infected family member, he said: “It’s known how it transmits, so members of the family should have a mask to protect from sneezing or cough, and the patient should wear a mask — it’s double protection — and gloves should be worn too as long as they are taken off properly to avoid contamination, then hands washed.”

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