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WHO director says world must act fast to contain COVID-19

The latest: 

  • WHO director warns window to contain coronavirus outbreak is ‘narrowing.’ 
  • China says crisis hasn’t peaked, situation in Hubei province ‘remains severe and complex.’
  • Iran confirms 13 more cases of COVID-19 and 2 more deaths, for a total of 18 cases and 4 deaths.
  • South Korea declares health emergency in its 4th-largest city amid concern about new cases.
  • Canadian charter flight with Diamond Princess passengers who were cleared after 2-week quarantine lands at CFB Trenton, head to Cornwall, Ont., for 2nd quarantine.
  • B.C. health officials report 6th presumptive case in province.
  • WATCH: Experts are starting to identify patterns of how the coronavirus is spread.

The window of opportunity to contain wider international spread of the epidemic of the new coronavirus disease is closing, the World Health Organization warned on Friday, and countries must act fast if they are to control it.

Asked whether the outbreak is at a “tipping point” after new cases of infections and deaths from COVID-19 were reported in Iran and Lebanon, the WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said he still believed the virus could be contained, but noted that “the window of opportunity is narrowing, so we need to act quickly before it closes completely.”

“This outbreak could go in any direction,” Tedros said as he encouraged countries to keep working on containment while also stepping up measures to prepare for the possibility of more widespread transmission.

“We must not look back and regret that we failed to take advantage of the window of opportunity we have.”

The daily WHO briefing came after Chinese officials said the coronavirus outbreak there has not yet reached its peak.

“A turning point in the development of the national epidemic situation has not yet arrived,” concluded the meeting, chaired by President Xi Jinping, according to state television.

“The epidemic prevention and control situation in Hubei province and Wuhan city remains severe and complex.”

The ruling Communist Party and the government should not relax but “unceasingly consolidate achievements and extend combat successes,” it said.

China has portrayed its efforts to control the virus, which has killed more than 2,200 and infected more than 75,000, as a war of containment.

Hubei revised the number of new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections upward to 631 on Friday, after including cases in the province’s prison systems.

All-out efforts should be made in Beijing’s epidemic control work, it said. The number of cases of coronavirus in the capital has jumped sharply while many other parts of the country beyond Hubei are reporting fewer or no new infections.

The impact of the coronavirus outbreak on China’s economy is obvious, but the economy’s long-term improving momentum will not change, the meeting said. Fiscal policy in China will be more proactive, monetary policy will be more flexible and the government will fend off systemic financial risks, it added.

Iran and South Korea report additional cases

Iran confirmed 13 new coronavirus cases and two deaths among the group of new cases, Health Ministry spokesperson Kianush Jahanpur said in a tweet on Friday.

The new cases comprised seven people diagnosed in Qom, four in Tehran and two in Gilan, Jahanpur said in the tweet.

The total number of cases in Iran now stands at 18, with four of those people having died.

WATCH: WHO director-general talks about COVID-19 cases in Iran

Window of opportunity to contain coronavirus is ‘narrowing,’ WHO boss says 2:45

In South Korea, the government banned major rallies in its capital and declared a health emergency in its fourth-largest city as 100 new virus cases were reported Friday, bringing the country’s total to 204.

Prime Minister Chung Se-kyun said in a televised statement the central government will concentrate its support to the southeastern region to ease a shortage in sickbeds, medical personnel and equipment.

A medical professional is seen Friday at a preliminary testing facility at the National Medical Center in Seoul, where patients suspected of contracting COVID-19 are assessed. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

“A month into the outbreak, we have entered an emergency phase,” Chung said. “Our efforts until now had been focused on blocking the illness from entering the country. But we will now shift the focus on preventing the illness from spreading further in local communities.”

The spike forced officials to focus on steps to contain the domestic spread of the disease, not just its entry from abroad.

Most of the new cases have been reported since Wednesday. The increase, especially in and around Daegu city in the southeast, has raised fears the outbreak is overwhelming the region’s medical system. Many of the cases have been linked to a church in the city.

WATCH: Infectious disease experts are starting to identify patterns of the disease’s spread

Infectious disease experts are starting to identify patterns of how the coronavirus is spread and which cases may be most severe as the number of new cases appears to decline. 1:58

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