See More on Facebook


We can push coronavirus back, says WHO chief

Evidence does not suggest a pandemic, he notes, if numbers are seen in perspective.

Written by

Updated: March 4, 2020

In spite of the number of cases and number of countries experiencing Covid-19 infections, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says it is still possible to contain the outbreak.

“This is not a one-way street. We can push this virus back,” said its director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

WHO has been questioned time and again why it has yet to declare Covid-19 a pandemic. Dr Tedros gave the assurance that WHO will not hesitate to describe the outbreak as a pandemic if the evidence so suggests. For now, it does not.

It is a matter of seeing the numbers in perspective, he said.

Of the more than 89,000 cases globally, 90 per cent are in one country, China, of which the vast majority of infections are centred in one province, Hubei.

And the number of cases in China has continued to fall, with only eight cases reported outside Hubei province on Sunday. The 206 cases for the country reported that day are the lowest since Jan 22.

In a virtual media briefing from the WHO headquarters in Geneva on Monday, Dr Tedros said: “In the last 24 hours, there were almost nine times more cases reported outside China than inside China.”

But again, of the close to 9,000 cases outside of China, more than 80 per cent are found in just four countries – South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan. These countries “are our greatest concern”, he said.

Of the other countries with infections, 38 have 10 cases or fewer each, while more than 100 countries have not had a single case.

Dr Tedros added: “A good number of countries have already contained the virus and have not reported (new cases) in the last two weeks.”

The largest spread outside of China is in South Korea, with more than 5,000 people infected – or more than half the cases outside of China. The majority of these cases come from five known clusters, and not from the community at large.

Said Dr Tedros: “That’s important because it indicates that surveillance measures are working and Korea’s epidemic can still be contained.”

South Korea’s situation also underlines that this is a unique virus with unique features.

“We are in uncharted territory. We have never before seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission but which can also be contained with the right measures,” Dr Tedros said.

But he is optimistic that the spread of Covid-19 can be stopped.

That must remain the top priority for all countries, he said. “With early, aggressive measures, countries can stop transmission and save lives.”

As for what people should do about holding events or travelling, Dr Tedros’ advice is to listen to what the local health authorities and professionals say.

“The answers to these questions will vary depending on where you live, how old you are and how healthy you are,” he said.

Enjoyed this story? Share it.

About the Author: The Straits Times is Singapore's top-selling newspaper.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia

Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.

By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here


Taiwan: 720,000 people registered for purchasing face masks online

Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Friday announced that more than 722,000 people — 600,000 using the NHI app and 122,000 more using the Emask system — had successfully registered for purchasing face masks as of 1 p.m. Asked about people who have reportedly tried to register again, CECC Chief Commander Chen Shih-chung called on the public to stop, stressing that authorities are committed to providing a set of face masks to each user prior to March 18, the official deadline for registration. Regarding some reported phone scams on payment requirements for face masks, Chen asked users to remain vigilant. Access is limited to Taiwan residents who need to register their NHI number, obtain proper digital certification and downloa

By Asia News Network
March 13, 2020


Covid-19 outbreak will continue for a year or longer; more stringent measures may need to be put in place, says PM Lee

 In a video address on his social media channels, PM Lee emphasised that the situation in Singapore remains under control. The Covid-19 outbreak will continue for some time – a year, and maybe longer – said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his second national address on the situation on Thursday (March 12). But if Singaporeans keep up their guard and take practical precautions, the country will be able to keep its economy going and people will be able to carry on with their daily lives, he said. In a video address on his social media channels, PM Lee emphasised that the situation in Singapore remains under control. The disease outbreak response level will not be stepped up to red, the highest level, he said. It is c

By The Straits Times
March 13, 2020


Foreigners play their part in Shanghai’s epidemic prevention

 Expat volunteers have been active in helping the city overcome the COVID-19 outbreak. Twelve foreign residents in Shanghai have joined a volunteer team to help with the city’s COVID-19 prevention and control. Located in Minhang district, the team was established on Feb 10 by the Jinfeng International Community Development Association, which aims to promote the development of Huacao town and the Jinfeng International Community by organising themed activities and public welfare events. Pakistani Amir Shafiq Khan joined the team to give back. “It’s easy to run away to another country, but I felt that my family and I should contribute to China in this difficult time as it has always offered opportunities to us,” says Khan, who has lived in

By China Daily
March 13, 2020


Asian stock markets take cue from US to hit fresh lows

ST Index careens into bear territory for the first time since January 2016 Many stock markets across Asia, including in Singapore, followed the United States into bear territory after US President Donald Trump stopped short of offering a detailed rescue package as the coronavirus outbreak was declared a global pandemic. Adding to fears, oil prices slumped further. The Straits Times Index (STI) careened into bear territory for the first time since January 2016. The last time that the STI was in a bear market – where stocks have fallen at least 20 per cent from their recent high – was during the oil price rout in 2016. The STI finished down 3.77 per cent yesterday, and more than 21 per cent down from a peak of 3,407.02 on April 29 last year.

By The Straits Times
March 13, 2020


askST: Can coronavirus be spread by sweat, or via activities such as singing?

There is currently no evidence showing that the virus can be transmitted through one’s perspiration. Concerns have been raised over social activities such as singing and exercising in the light of the coronavirus outbreak. As of Wednesday (March 11), Singapore’s largest Safra Jurong cluster of confirmed coronavirus cases went up to 40, against a total of 178 cases. The patients, who had attended a Feb 15 Chinese New Year celebration held in the ballroom of Joy Garden restaurant at Safra Jurong, are members of a Hokkien singing group. This has raised concerns as to whether the disease, known as Covid-19, can be transmitted through singing. Similar concerns have been expressed about whether the virus can be spread through sweat b

By The Straits Times
March 12, 2020


Bangladesh to benefit from coronavirus fallout: survey

Study says globally renowned companies are planning to shift work orders from China to other Asian countries, including Bangladesh. Bangladesh will benefit from the fallout of the coronavirus as most of the globally renowned companies are planning to shift work orders from China to other Asian countries, including Bangladesh, according to a new survey. Hong Kong-based QIMA, a leading provider of supply chain compliance solutions and which partners with brands, retailers and importers to secure, manage and optimise their global supply network, surveyed the executives of more than 200 globally renowned companies between February and early March. Half of the survey respondents are considering shifting supplier sourcing away from China to new countries or r

By Daily Star
March 12, 2020