World Health Organisation ‘concerned’ about growing number of coronavirus cases without a link to China
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) chief has admitted the number of cases of coronavirus occurring without a clear link to China is “concerning”.
It comes following an announcement from Iran confirming two more deaths, brining the total in the country to four.
WHO leader, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the window of opportunity to contain the virus was “narrowing”.
There have been 1,152 cases confirmed outside of China, with eight deaths, across 26 other countries.
Two of those deaths occured in South Korea where there has been the biggest outbreak, aside from in China and the quarantined cruise ship in Japan.
On Friday Italy revealed there had been a further 16 cases. Its health minister announce plans to close schools and offices in the regions affected, as well as all sporting events.
Tedros said the number of coronavirus cases outside of China was “relatively small” but was worried by the pattern of infection.
“We are concerned about the number of cases with no clear epidemiological link, such as travel history to or contact with a confirmed case,” he said.
The new deaths and infections in Iran in particular were “very concerning”, he added.
Iranian health officials have said the disease known as Covid-19 may already be in “all Iran’s cities”.
The outbreak in the country is centred on the holy city of Qom, south of capital Tehran, which is popular with Shia Muslims in the region.
Iran reported two further deaths on Friday and has 18 confirmed cases.
Other cases have also been confirmed in Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and the UAE.
China has reported 75,567 cases including 2,239 deaths. The new virus, which originated last year in Hubei province in China, causes a respiratory disease called Covid-19.
Canada said one of its nine cases was a woman who had recently returned from Iran.
WHO officials have said both Iran and Lebannon have the basic capacity to detect the virus and that it had contacted them to offer assistance.
Tedros added that WHO was concerned about the virus spreading in countries with weaker health systems.
However, he said that measures put in place by China and other countries meant there was still a “fighting chance” of preventing it from spreading further. He also called on other countries to put more resources into preparing for possible outbreaks.