WHO raises coronavirus risk level to ‘very high’

Global deaths from coronavirus rise to 2,858 as more countries report their first cases and the World Health Organisation raises the risk level to ‘very high’

Italy is Europe's hotbed for the coronavirus
Italy is Europe's hotbed for the coronavirus

The World Health Organisation has increased its risk level for the coronavirus to “very high” as the number of affected countries increased over the last few days.

The development comes as the recorded cases of Covid-19 increased to 83,310 globally, including 2,858 deaths.

Outside China, which is where the disease originated and where most deaths occurred, 49 countries have reported cases. Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Nigeria today reported their first cases, all of which have links to Italy.

Italy has become Europe’s hotbed for the disease with reported cases rising to 821 and 21 deaths.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced the higher risk level on Friday, during the daily news conference in Geneva.

“Our epidemiologists have been monitoring these developments continuously, and we have now increased our assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of impact of Covid-19 to very high at a global level,” he said.

The WHO chief said most of the epidemics in several countries were linked. “Most cases can still be traced to known contacts or clusters of cases. We do not see evidence as yet that the virus is spreading freely in communities. As long as that’s the case, we still have a chance of containing this virus, if robust action is taken to detect cases early, isolate and care for patients and trace contacts.”

China reported 329 new cases over the past 24 hours, the lowest in more than a month, WHO said.

The coronavirus has caused stock markets to plunge as countries take various drastic measures to contain the disease.

Switzerland today banned public gatherings of more than 1,000 people, a decision that caused the cancellation of the world-renowned Geneva motor show and other major events.

In Italy, football matches in the north are being played behind closed doors, while certain localities have been cordoned off and quarantined.

Malta ‘well-prepared’, government says

In Malta, the government said the authorities were “well-prepared” for any eventuality.

So far, there are no reported cases of Covid-19 in Malta.

A strategic Cabinet committee led by Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne is coordinating measures suggested by medical experts that have to be taken across sectors.

Meanwhile, unions and employer organisations have called for an urgent meeting of the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development to discuss the country’s preparedness for the coronavirus.

This meeting will take place next week although no date has yet been set.

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