…Says world should prepare for potential pandemic
…Iran’s deputy health minister contracts virus
By Sola Ogundipe & Gabriel Olawale
As the number of new deaths and infections from the COVID-19 continue to rise in the Middle East and Europe, the World Health Organisation, WHO, has warned all countries to step up preparations to deal with an outbreak of the level of a pandemic even as it insisted that such scenario had not been attained.
The Director-General of the WHO Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva that the global health agency is very concerned about the spread of the virus within countries such as South Korea, Iran and Italy, even as the infections in China – where the disease originated late 2019 – have been declining since early February.
“For the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this coronavirus, and we are not witnessing large-scale severe disease or death. What we are seeing are epidemics in different parts of the world,”
“We should be doing everything we can to prepare for a potential pandemic. What we see are epidemics in different parts of the world affecting countries in different ways and requiring a tailored response.”
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So far, Iran has been hit by the deadliest outbreak outside China. Concerns heightened on Tuesday after Iraj Harirchi, head of the Iranian anti-coronavirus taskforce tested positive. In a video broadcast on state television, the deputy health minister admitted he was infected.
“I wanted to tell you that I got corona. I too have been infected,” Harirchi said in the video .
“I had a fever as of last night and my preliminary test was positive around midnight. I’ve isolated myself in a place since. A few minutes ago, I was told that my final test was final, and now I am starting medication,” he said. Generally, I feel fine. I just felt a bit tired, I had a fever, and it will drop.”
Harirchi, who said the disease is no respecter of persons, assured the people that the disease would be defeated in a matter of weeks.
“Be sure with the effort of the medical staff and ministry of health headed by the (health minister)and with your support and the state and military within the coming weeks, we’ll be victorious against this virus,” he said.
An Iranian parliamentarian, Mahmoud Sadeghi representing Tehran has also tested positive. Iran confirmed three more deaths and 34 new infections on Tuesday, taking the country’s overall death toll to 15 and infection tally to 95.
Health Minister Saeed Namaki however said quarantine is an old method. “We still do not agree with quarantining cities since we believe the people are cultured enough to refrain from travelling from infected cities to other places,” semi-official news agency ISNA quoted him as saying.
South Korea has a total of 977 cases and 11 deaths.
In Italy, where there have been 287 infections and seven deaths, authorities have set up roadblocks, called off football matches, sealed off the worst-affected towns and banned public gatherings across a wide area.