The World Health Organization warned on Monday that the threat of a Wuhan coronavirus pandemic is now “very real.”
“Now that the virus has a foothold in so many countries, the threat of a pandemic has become very real,” WHO General Director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference. “But, it would be the first pandemic in history that could be controlled. The bottom line is we are not at the mercy of this virus.”
Tedros also noted that most confirmed patients in China, where the coronavirus originated, have recovered.
“We need to remember that with decisive, early action, we can slow down the coronavirus and prevent infections. Among those who are infected, most will recover,” Tedros said. “Of the 80,000 reported COVID-19 cases in China, more than 70 percent have recovered.”
China has confirmed 80,734 cases of the coronavirus, with 3,119 deaths. After China, the countries hardest-hit by the outbreak are South Korea (7,478 cases, 53 deaths), Italy (7,375 cases, 366 deaths), and Iran (6,566 cases, 194 deaths), although the epidemic in Iran may be much worse than the country’s authorities currently report. The U.S. has confirmed 545 cases and 22 deaths.
Chinese authorities have taken drastic measures to curb the outbreak since it spread from the city of Wuhan, imposing quarantines on entire cities and severely restricting movement within Hubei Province, where Wuhan is located. However, it is so far unclear if these measures have stopped the coronavirus entirely or if its spread could restart if quarantines are lifted.
“I think they did an amazing job of knocking the virus down,” Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told the New York Times on Saturday. “But I don’t know if it’s sustainable. What have the Chinese really accomplished? Have they really contained the virus? Or have they just suppressed it?”