The Coronavirus Scare: WHO Raises Alarm as Virus Spreads in Europe and Middle East

Written by | Tuesday, February 25th, 2020

The coronavirus outbreak has not reached the level of a pandemic but countries need to step up preparations to deal with such a scenario, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned as new infections and deaths were reported in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The infections in China – the country where the coronavirus originated in late 2019 – have been declining since early February, which proves that the virus can be contained. But the global health agency is now very concerned about the spread of the virus, officially known as COVID-19, within countries such as Italy, Iran and South, with its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warning on Monday (24 February) that while “for the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this coronavirus,” countries should be “doing everything we can to prepare for a potential pandemic.”
The WHO chief’s comments came as relevant authorities in Europe and the Middle East scramble to contain the spread of the outbreak and stock markets plunged on fears of a global slowdown due to the spread of the virus. The authorities in Italy, which has reported more than 200 infections and seven deaths, have set up roadblocks, cancelled football matches, sought to isolate the worst-affected towns and banned public gatherings across a wide area. The government in Iran has said that 12 people had died nationwide, while five neighboring countries – Afghanistan, Oman, Iraq, Kuwait and Bahrain – reported their first cases of the virus, with those infected all having links to Iran.
With 178 cases of coronavirus having been reported in the EU as of 24 February, including 132 cases in Italy, which is currently the most affected region, the EU is taking precautions to stem the spread of the virus. While there’s no doubt that this novel flu strain is a cause of concern, discussions in EU capital cities and in Brussels are focusing on whether member states should consider border measures to temporarily suspend Schengen. At a press conference on Monday (24 February), Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenar?i? and EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides responded to the possibility of imposing restrictive border measures, highlighting that this is the prerogative of member states and the importance of a measured response in relation to the actual risk that exists. The EU executive has also announced a new €232 million aid package to boost global preparedness, prevention and containment of the virus.

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