The “epicenter” of the coronavirus outbreak has crossed international borders.
The head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said at a press conference in Switzerland on Friday that the COVID-19 pandemic is now centered in Europe rather than China. “More cases are now being reported every day [in Europe] than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic,” the WHO director-general told reporters, according to CNBC.
Slowing the spread
Ghebreyesus told reporters Friday that the WHO’s “message to countries continues to be: you must take a comprehensive approach,” The Sun reported.
He went on: “Any country that looks at the experience of other countries with large epidemics and thinks ‘that won’t happen to us’ is making a deadly mistake. It can happen to anyone.”
According to The Sun, Ghebreyesus indicated there is much that can still be done to slow down COVID-19’s spread “and save lives.”
“Until now, we have been relying mainly on governments to support the COVID-19 response. Now everyone can contribute,” he said, according to The Sun. “Funds raised will be used to coordinate the response, to buy masks, gloves, gowns, and goggles for health workers, to buy diagnostic tests, to improve surveillance, and to invest in research and development.”
Slow to respond?
The WHO had previously been criticized for being too slow to call the coronavirus disease a pandemic, with some arguing that the organization was being too deferential to China.
Conservative commentator Michael Brendan Dougherty had harsh words for the agency, writing for National Review last month that the WHO “declared the Wuhan virus a public health emergency, but their statement was mixed up with boot-sniffing disavowals of any criticism of the Chinese government.”
In particular, Dougherty noted that the WHO stressed its declaration “should be seen in the spirit of support and appreciation for China, its people, and the actions China has taken on the frontlines of this outbreak, with transparency, and, it is to be hoped, with success.”
“Readers might take this as a statement that China was being transparent and taking an approach worth appreciating,” Dougherty opined. “It’s not the WHO’s job to police appreciation for China’s actions.”
Reports have since indicated that China may have been less than forthcoming with the truth about the virus’ origins and spread. An article published in the South China Morning Post reported that the first case of novel coronavirus appeared in November 2019, rather than early this year. But rather than publicize the problem, the Chinese government allegedly arrested whistleblowers in the medical sector, according to Business Insider.
What’s more, local authorities in Wuhan allowed an annual potluck dinner involving 40,000 people to proceed even after the virus had been detected there, according to a report from The New York Times. As the virus now spreads across the United States, public schools have announced lengthy closures, and large gatherings like conferences and festivals have been canceled.