Backgrounder: COVID-19 -- official name for disease caused by novel coronavirus

Grant Boone
February 14, 2020

Egypt confirmed on Friday (Feb 14) its first coronavirus case and said the affected person was a foreigner who had been put into isolation in hospital.

WHO has renamed the 2019-nCoV to COVID-19, under agreed guidelines between WHO, the World Organisation for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to represent the entire viral outbreak under one category as "Corona Virus Disease" (COVID).

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the other members of the worldwide team will arrive in China over the weekend.

Regional director WHO (South-East Asia) Poonam Khetrapal Singh explained that the emergence of any new pathogen with the potential to cause severe illness and death is of grave concern and must be taken with utmost seriousness. Beyond China, the disease has struck 24 countries, causing 393 cases and 1 death, in the Philippines.

Deep trade links with China and often overstretched healthcare systems have raised concerns about the capacity of African countries to respond to an outbreak.

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However, there has been no confirmation of what punishments or fines the bolstered regulator will be able to hand out. A business simply having a social media presence does not necessarily mean it will be in scope.

This particular strain originated in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, the largest city in central China, and is in the same family as SARS and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome). Over 64,000 cases have been diagnosed globally. A total of 1,716 health workers are among the 60,000 persons infected with the virus.

"We are not defenceless", he said.

The move significantly expands the government's response to the outbreak and comes as a particularly harsh wave of influenza is hitting the country.

Ryan was also quoted by CNN as saying that the WHO was working with Chinese health authorities to implement further clinical trials. Some 600 people are now under quarantine.

World Health Organization has engaged network of country representatives, as well as the United Nations resident coordinators in countries, to brief them on the outbreak and inform them about the steps they can take.

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