Tackling the virus should be global priority - GulfToday

Tackling the virus should be global priority

Coronavirus-Philippines

The new figures suggest that the epidemic may be far worse than being reported.

With over 60,000 people infected, the vast majority of them in China’s Hubei province, and more than 1,370 people dead, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to wreak havoc, leaving the world worried and markets shivering.

The latest disappointing development is that China’s official death toll from the coronavirus spiked dramatically on Thursday after authorities changed their counting methods. This has added to worries that the epidemic may be far worse than being reported.

In Hubei and its capital Wuhan, where tens of millions of people are trapped as part of an unprecedented quarantine effort, 242 new deaths were reported on Thursday.

Another 14,840 people were confirmed to be infected in Hubei alone, with the new cases and deaths by far the biggest one-day increases since the crisis began.

Hubei had previously only allowed infections to be confirmed by RNA tests, which can take days. RNA, or ribonucleic acid, carries genetic information allowing identification of viruses. But it has also begun using computerised tomography (CT) scans, which give images of the lungs, as per Hubei health commission, to identify cases and isolate them faster.

As a result, another 14,840 new cases were reported in the province on Thursday, from 2,015 new cases nationwide a day earlier.

The global scenario is not encouraging either. Japan has confirmed its first coronavirus death, a woman in her 80s, adding to two previous fatalities in Hong Kong and the Philippines.

Besides, a troubling new front has opened abroad as Vietnam has placed 10,000 people under quarantine after six COVID-19 cases were discovered in a cluster of villages — the first such lockdown overseas.

The outbreak has affected global events, with the World Mobile Congress in Spain cancelled and the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens tournament and Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai postponed.

China’s economy is taking a hit and having international repercussions. So much so that HSBC has lowered its first-quarter forecast for mainland China’s economic growth to 4.1% year-on-year from 5.8% due to the fallout from coronavirus.

The UAE, on its part, deserves praise for being among the first countries to stock up sufficient quantities of materials required for state-of-the-art checkups to detect the new coronavirus.

In the words of Abdul Rahman Bin Mohammad Bin Nasser Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention: “As soon as the spread of the virus was reported from China, we made available enough quantities of thermometers at the border crossings and airports. We also took all necessary precautions in line with World Health Organisation protocols.”

The country has adequate reserves of necessary medical supplies such as surgical masks, medical gloves, goggles, and protective clothing. In addition to these, several factories inside the country continue to manufacture them to the best international standards.

The UAE has also received much appreciation from the WHO and Arab Regional Centre for its prompt handling of the detected cases.

European Union health ministers have taken a step in the right direction by agreeing to organise a coordinated response to prevent the virus from spreading.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus correctly pointed out: “This outbreak is a test of solidarity — political, financial and scientific. We need to come together to fight a common enemy that does not respect borders, ensure that we have the resources necessary to bring this outbreak to an end and bring our best science to the forefront to find shared answers to shared problems.”