Countries urged to keep up efforts in disease fight
A senior World Health Organization, or WHO, official has warned against using terms linking the novel coronavirus with ethnicity after United States President Donald Trump repeatedly used the phrase "Chinese virus" in speeches and tweets in the past few days.
Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO's Health Emergencies Program, told a news conference on Wednesday that the WHO has stressed since the beginning of the outbreak that the virus knows no borders and does not care about ethnicity, skin color or how rich people are.
"It's really important that we be careful in the language we use, lest it leads to profiling of individuals associated with the virus," he said. "This is just something we all need to avoid."
He cited the fact that the influenza outbreak of 2009 originated in North America. "We didn't call it North America flu," he said, "so it's very important that we have the same approach when it comes to other viruses," adding that the world needs to avoid any indication of ethnic or other association with this virus.
He emphasized what the world needs now is solidarity and working together.
At the media briefing, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus continued to urge countries to adopt a comprehensive approach in fighting the spread of COVID-19 as governments from Europe to North America ramp up measures.
So far during the pandemic, more than 200,000 cases have been reported to the WHO and more than 8,000 people have lost their lives. More than 80 percent of all cases are from two regions of the West Pacific and Europe, the WHO revealed.
"We know that many countries now face escalating epidemics and are feeling overwhelmed," Tedros said.
Every day, he continued, the WHO is talking to ministers of health, heads of state, health workers, hospital managers, industry leaders and CEOs to help them prepare and prioritize according to their specific situation.
He said the WHO continues to recommend that isolating, testing and treating every suspected case, and tracing every contact, must be the backbone of the response in every country.
"This is the best hope of preventing widespread community transmission," Tedros said. "WHO continues to call on all countries to implement a comprehensive approach, with the aim of slowing down transmission and flattening the curve."
On Wednesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that China will send protective gear to help the European Union fight the novel coronavirus.
China has agreed to send 2 million surgical masks, 200,000 N95 face masks and 50,000 testing kits to the EU, and these supplies can be shipped to the EU immediately, she said.
"In the meantime, we are grateful for support from China," she added. When China was first hit by COVID-19, the EU also sent medical supplies to China to help fight the epidemic but last week the WHO announced that Europe had become the epicenter of the pandemic.
China has also sent face masks, medical teams and ventilators directly to countries such as Italy and Belgium.
On Wednesday, Belgium, with a population of 11 million, became the latest EU country to shut down public life in a bid to control the spread of the virus. Until April 5, residents in Belgium will only be allowed to leave their homes for essential reasons, such as food shopping and health-related trips.
Belgium's decision came days after France imposed a 15-day lockdown. Lockdowns had already been imposed in Italy and Spain, the two European countries that reported the highest number of cases.
Also on Wednesday, the U.S. and Canada decided to suspend non-essential travel between the two countries due to the pandemic, Trump announced. He continued to use the widely regarded racist and stigmatized term "Chinese virus" to describe COVID-19, something the WHO has repeatedly warned against.