Although the World Health Organization (WHO) reaffirmed on Monday that the spread of the Novel Coronavirus has not yet reached the scale of a pandemic and its transmission momentum in China outside Hubei province, which has borne the brunt of the outbreak, has been largely contained, the fast increase in the number of infections in the Republic of Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran – expanding tenfold to about 2,000 in a few days – indicates it is still too early to relax global vigilance against the virus.
Instead, as WHO Assistant Director-General Bruce Aylward warned on Monday after wrapping up the WHO’s field research in China, complacency harbours the greatest risks. While the outbreak is being brought under control in China, with the number of cured people coming out of hospitals each day significantly more than the number of infected going in, that does not mean the country can now temper its efforts to defeat the virus, because it could stage a comeback at any time.
But more importantly, as Aylward cautioned, China’s lessons and experience have not received their due attention in many other countries. He urged the rest of the world to learn the lesson of acting fast.
That the epidemic in China peaked around Jan 23 to Feb 2 and has been declining since should primarily be attributed to the swift and rigorous measures China took to reduce residents’ mobility and concentrate national medical resources in the war against the virus in Hubei.
The global solidarity the WHO has repeatedly called for should not fall on deaf ears, lest China’s remarkable efforts to contain the virus prove to be of no purpose because others have not heeded the warnings.
Before effective vaccines are developed, other countries and regions must raise their vigilance and, when necessary, carry out the same practices as China as early as possible, which, as experts have suggested, is the best that can be done.Although the number of infection clusters outside China is few, it is not being alarmist to say that if the current tendency of the virus to spread isnt halted by resolute and decisive public health actions in these countries and elsewhere, it will only be a matter of time before a Wuhan-scale epidemic appears somewhere else.