'Not seeing urgency we need': WHO warns 'window is closing' to contain coronavirus

Tom Flanagan
News Reporter

The World Health Organisation has warned the global financial response to the deadly coronavirus isn’t meeting demand and urged nations to understand the severity of the threat at hand.

Speaking from Geneva on Monday WHO Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said acting now was essential in preventing the virus from spreading further outside of China where the virus has killed over 1800 people.

“We have not seen the urgency in the funding that we need,” he said, after previously stating WHO needs US$675 billion ($1.005b) to fight the virus.

Commuters wearing protective masks walk through a station in Hong Kong. Source: Getty

“We have a window of opportunity now. We need resources now to ensure countries are prepared now.

“We don’t know how long this window of opportunity will remain.

“Lets not squander it.”

While new cases outside the epicentre region of Hubei have been declining for the last 13 days, Mr Tedros said the apparent drop in new cases “must be interpreted very cautiously.”

“Trends can change as new populations are affected. It’s too early to tell if this reported decline will continue,” he said.

“Every scenario is still on the table,” he said.

There were 115 fresh cases outside Hubei announced on Monday, sharply down from nearly 450 a week ago.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned time to act is running out. Source: Getty

There are 1348 cases outside of mainland China, including 454 passengers from the cruise ship Diamond Princess docked in Japan, where WHO are continuing to focus on containing the virus.

Proportionate measures needed

Dr Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s emergencies program, urged for “proportionate” measures to be taken in response to the virus.

“So if we are going to disrupt every cruise ship in the world on the off-chance that there may be some potential contact with some potential pathogen, then where do we stop? We shut down the buses around the world?”

There was no such thing as zero risk, Ryan said, calling for basing decisions on cruise ships and meetings on solid evidence.

The Diamond Princess remains in quarantine in Yokohama. Source: AP

“Measures should be taken proportionate to the situation, based on public health science and evidence. And blanket measures may not help,” Tedros added.

Inside Hubei, where 58,182 people have been infected, an unprecedented lockdown was implemented for its 58 million residents in an effort to curtail the spread.

Australian government offers research funding

Mr Tedros’ warning comes as the federal government will give $2 million to Australian researchers to develop a vaccine for coronavirus.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the cash pool for grants at the Peter Doherty Institute in Melbourne on Tuesday where experts have been working to understand and respond to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Researchers from across the country will be able to apply for money from the Medical Research Future Fund in hope of developing a coronavirus vaccine and for research into it.

On Monday, more than 200 Australians who were quarantined on Christmas Island following their evacuation from Wuhan have since returned home.

Two hundred Australians will be evacuated from the Diamond Princess on Wednesday and taken to quarantine near Darwin.

with Reuters and AAP

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