The coronavirus is “the worst enemy you can ever imagine” and poses a greater global threat than terrorism, the World Health Organisation has warned.
Urging the world to “wake up” and be as aggressive as possible in tackling the outbreak, the UN health agency has given a new name to the disease that has sickened more than 44,600 people.
It is now going to be officially known as COVID-19 – CO stands for corona, VI for virus, D for disease and 19 for the year it emerged.
Chinese health officials have expressed hope that the outbreak will be over in April, but the head of the World Health Organisation was far less optimistic.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned the first vaccine for COVID-19 was 18 months away, adding: “To be honest, a virus is more powerful in creating political, social and economic upheaval than any terrorist attack. It’s the worst enemy you can imagine.”
WHO officials added that they have gone to great lengths to ensure the name did not refer to a geographical location, animal or group of people.
In other developments:
- The total number of deaths from COVID-19 has exceeded 1,100
- 2,015 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 were confirmed on 11 February – the lowest number of new infections since 30 January
- Another 39 people, including a quarantine officer, have tested positive for COVID-19 on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Japan
- Two prisoners are being tested for coronavirus in Oxfordshire, one of whom had recently been transferred from a jail in Thailand
- An A&E worker at Worthing Hospital in West Sussex is among the eight confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the UK
- The British man believed to be a “superspreader” of coronavirus has been identified as businessman Steve Walsh
- Bank of England governor Mark Carney has said the virus is “already bigger than SARS” from an economic perspective.
Details of British cases emerge
The Department of Health has stressed that all services at Worthing Hospital – including surgeries and outpatient appointments – are continuing normally despite an A&E worker being diagnosed with COVID-19.
It is understood this is not the same person as the locum doctor working in Brighton, who is also one of the eight confirmed cases in the UK.
Meanwhile, two prisoners at HMP Bullingdon in Oxfordshire are being held in isolation as they are tested for the coronavirus – and access to that wing has been restricted.
The prison, which has capacity for 1,114 inmates, remains operational.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that anyone concerned about the coronavirus should “simply take the advice” of the NHS.
He added: “We are a great country, we have got a fantastic NHS, we have got fantastic doctors.”
The British man believed to be a “superspreader” of the coronavirus has said he has fully recovered after being diagnosed in Brighton on 6 February with COVID-19.
Steve Walsh contracted the virus while at a business conference in Singapore before going to the French Alps for a ski holiday, and then returning to his home in Hove, East Sussex.
The 53-year-old appears to have unwittingly infected 11 other Britons who were in France with him. Five of those Britons are now in the UK, five are in France and one is in Majorca.
He is still in quarantine at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, and said in a statement: “I would like to thank the NHS for their help and care – whilst I have fully recovered, my thoughts are with others who have contracted coronavirus.”
New cases confirmed on cruise ship
Japan’s health ministry has said that 39 new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed on the cruise ship currently quarantined off the coast of Yokohama.
Foreign nationals are among the latest people to be diagnosed.
A total of 174 cases have now been identified aboard the Diamond Princess – a British man who was on his honeymoon is among them.
Health officials have been conducting medical checks on all of the ship’s 3,700 passengers and crew – but a quarantine officer is among those who have now fallen ill.
A total of 78 British passport holders are on board the luxury cruise liner, and a 14-day quarantine continues.
Stock markets around the world surged to record highs on Tuesday after Zhong Nanshan, a Chinese medical adviser who played a role in combating the SARS outbreak in 2003, predicted that COVID-19 cases will peak this month.
But even if the epidemic ends soon, the coronavirus will have a lasting impact on China’s economy.
Some companies have already begun to lay off workers, while others say they will need loans running into billions of dollars if they are going to stay afloat.
There is another dilemma. The virus could further spread if businesses start reopening in China – but if they don’t, there are fears that medical supplies could run low.
Postal operators in the US, China and elsewhere have also said that the suspension of flights is having a major impact on global flows of letters and parcels.
Reports suggest that top health officials in Hubei province, where the city of Wuhan is based, have been relieved of their duties following criticism their response to the crisis was too slow and ineffective.