Sky News

Sky News 26 Mar 2020

'Hell' at NYC's COVID-19 ground zero


President Trump admitted last night that New York City is "by far our biggest problem" - the city is now the epicentre of the outbreak in the US.

New York state alone has accounted for more than 30,000 cases and close to 300 deaths, most of them in New York City.

From there Sky's Alistair Bunkall reports.

CGTN's Rachelle Akuffo talks to Donald E. Heller, Vice President of Operations and a professor of education at the University of San Francisco, on COVID-19's impact on eduation.
The San Francisco Bay Area became the first region in the U.S. to issue a shelter-in-place order, hoping to curb the spread of coronavirus. But there's some confusion over exactly what is allowed, and who is at risk. CGTN's Mark Niu explains.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO;
Dr Michael J Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme;
Dr Sylvie Briand, Director, Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness, WHO

The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Ghebreyesus said it "appears that COVID-19 is not as deadly as other coronaviruses, including SARS and MERS" adding that more than 80 per cent of patients have "mild disease and will recover."

Speaking to reporters in Geneva today (17 Feb), Tedros said new data coming from China "addresses some of the gaps in our understanding, but others remain." He said the international team of experts now on the ground in China was working with Chinese counterparts to "better understand those gaps and improve out an understanding of the outbreak."

Earlier today, China published a paper with detailed data on more than 44,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which appear to show a decline in new cases. Tedros said it is too early to tell if this reported decline will continue.

The data also indicated that more than 80 per cent of the patients have a mild form of the disease and will recover. In about 14 per cent of the cases, the virus causes severe disease, while in two per cent of the reported cases, the virus is fatal.

WHO continues to help countries prepare by sending testing kits to laboratories around the world. They are also training health workers, sending them personal protective equipment, and working with manufacturers to ensure available supply.

Tedros reiterated that there is a window of opportunity and that resources are needed now to ensure countries are prepared. He called on the international community to fund the USD 675 million appeal to support the countries' preparations.

SOUNDBITE (English) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO):
"But we have not seen the urgency in funding that we need. As I keep saying, we have a window of opportunity now. We need resources now to ensure countries are prepared now. We don't know how long this window of opportunity will remain open. Let's not squander it."

Michael Ryan, Executive Director of WHO's Health Emergencies Programme stressed the need to be "extremely cautious in using the term pandemic." He said, "We had lots of controversies during the H1N1 situation around when it was pandemic and when it wasn't pandemic. And I think we need to be careful. The real issue here is whether we're seeing efficient community transmission outside of China, and at the present time, we are not observing that."

In response to questions, Ryan it wasn't WHO's job to go after the people who release misinformation, rather it is to "put out good information and give people the best information." He said WHO encourages openness and transparency at all levels as "the best way for public health to do its job."

Ryan said there must be a balance between "the public and common good against the rights of the individual" adding that, sometimes, "that's a very difficult balance to strike."

The Executive Director of the Health Emergencies Programme asked, "If we're going to disrupt every cruise ship in the world on the off chance that there might be some potential contact with some potential pathogen, and where do we stop? We shut down the buses around the world? And what happens when other countries are affected? Do we take the same measures in that case?" He stressed that everything done to step the outbreak of COVID-19 must be "extremely measured" based on public health and evidence. He said it needs to be based on a principle that "there's no such thing as a zero risk."

WHO's Director of Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness, Sylvie Briand said for the general public, "very often, pandemic is really the worst-case scenario." She said before qualifying the COVID-19 outbreak as a worst-case scenario, "we need a lot more evidence and a lot more data." That is why, she said, WHO needed to be cautious because She belived that it could "really create panic unnecessarily because what is important currently is that we all agree on the risk assessment so that we can all tackle the virus the same way."
Buses carrying 129 Canadian cruise ship passengers whose charter plane landed at CFB Trenton early Friday morning have arrived in Cornwall, Ont., to begin a 14-day quarantine. The passengers were from the Diamond Princess cruise liner that was quarantined in Yokohama, Japan, since early February due to an outbreak of COVID-19.


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