An advance World Health Organization team of medical experts arrived in China on Monday to help investigate the coronavirus outbreak, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva.
Tedros, who visited Beijing for talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese ministers in late January, returned with an agreement on sending an international mission. It took nearly two weeks to get the green light from the Chinese government on the team, which Tedros said would number between 10 and 15.
There have been 40,235 confirmed cases reported in China and 909 deaths, as well as 319 cases in 24 other countries, including one death, he said.
Tedros voiced concern at incidents, reported by European authorities at the weekend, of the person-to-person spread of the virus by people with no history of travel to China.
“In recent days, we have seen some concerning instances of onward transmission from people with no travel history to China, like the cases reported in France and the United Kingdom today,” he said.
“The detection of this small number of cases could be the spark that becomes a bigger fire. But for now, it’s only a spark. Our objective remains containment.”
Tedros urged countries to take public health measures to help “prevent a bigger fire”, adding: “This is a message for the whole world. This is a common enemy that we can only defeat if we do it in unison.”