The World Health Organization (WHO), which is yet to declare the novel Coronavirus as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) despite over 100 fatalities in China, identified the disease as “high risk”.
In a statement on Monday, the WHO also claimed to be in touch with all the Health Ministers of the South Asian region, while keeping a close watch on the developments.
“WHO remains committed to work with member countries to scale up readiness and implement International Health Regulation (IHR) core capacities to respond to any importation,” it said.
On January 23, an Emergency Committee set up by the WHO over the virus which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, had stopped short of declaring the novel Coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern – a rare designation used only for the worst outbreaks that would trigger more concerted global action.
The WHO, however, on Monday admitted an error in its risk assessment of China’s deadly virus.
The Geneva-based UN agency said in a situation report late Sunday that the risk was “very high in China, high at the regional level and high at the global level.”
In a footnote, the WHO explained that it had stated “incorrectly” in its previous reports on Thursday, Friday and Saturday that the global risk was “moderate”.
The virus, which was first identified in the city of Wuhan in China on December 31, has so far killed 106 people in China.
4,515 confirmed cases have been reported in 30 provincial-level regions.
Majority of the cases has been reported from Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, where a seafood market that illegally sold wild animals has been identified as the epicentre of the outbreak.
With a rapid rise in the death toll, Chinese President, Xi Jinping earlier this week called an emergency government meeting, telling officials the country is facing a “grave situation” as the new Coronavirus is “accelerating its spread”.
Meanwhile, WHO South-East Asia has urged countries in the region to remain vigilant and strengthen their readiness to rapidly detect any case of the new Coronavirus and prevent its spread.
“It is time to focus on all efforts on readiness guided by whatever is known about the new Coronavirus,” Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia, said.
“Globally, the WHO has prepared interim guidance on case detection, testing, clinical management of cases, infection prevention and control during health care, home care for people suspected to have the virus, and guidance on reducing transmission.
“We should continue to be vigilant and ready to contain and prevent any further spread,” she added.
Other countries with confirmed cases outside of China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau include Thailand, Australia, Singapore, the US, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, France, Vietnam, Canada, Ivory Coast, Nepal, Germany, Cambodia and Sri Lanka.
However, no deaths have been reported outside of China.
The Coronavirus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
The Coronavirus is a large family of viruses that causes illnesses ranging from the common cold to acute respiratory syndromes, but the virus in China is a novel strain and not seen before.