WHO seeking to raise $675M to respond to growing coronavirus outbreak

The latest:

  • WHO wants $675M US to help stamp out coronavirus outbreak.
  • Top official at WHO urges all countries to make evidence-based decisions about travel restrictions.
  • Hong Kong says all visitors from mainland China will undergo 14-day quarantine.
  • China says there have been 490 deaths and 24,324 confirmed cases on the mainland.
  • 2 cruise ships under quarantine 1 off Japan, 1 in Hong Kong.
  • Canadians in Wuhan told flight out will be later than expected. 
  • B.C. reports a 2nd presumptive case of coronavirus. Woman in her 50s had been in contact with family members who had been in Hubei province, health officials say.
  • Public Health Agency of Canada says risk to Canadians from coronavirus low.

The World Health Organization is launching a major campaign to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, saying $675 million US is needed to help countries around the world prepare for and deal with the virus.

Director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said more must be done to help affected countries and prevent the spread of the virus, particularly to countries with weaker health infrastructure.

“The relatively small number of cases outside China gives us a window of opportunity to prevent this outbreak from becoming a broader global crisis,” he said at a briefing from Geneva.

The director general outlined the organization’s response, including efforts to send hundreds of thousands of masks and gloves to China, but he made it clear that a major infusion of funding is needed, saying: “Invest today, or pay more later.”

“This is not a time for fear, this is not a time for panic,” he said, adding that it is a time for rational, evidence-based decisions and investment in efforts to stamp out the virus.

Hong Kong quarantine

Hong Kong’s leader says all people entering from the mainland, including Hong Kong residents, will be required to undergo 14 days of quarantine because of the coronavirus outbreak. Carrie Lam said the measure will take effect on Saturday to allow Hong Kong day travellers to make necessary arrangements.

She said the government is looking for more quarantine facilities in addition to three current camps.

Lam said the government has been vigilant and isn’t shying away from introducing stringent measures to stem the spread of the virus. Thousands of medical workers have gone on strike in the territory to demand that the border with the mainland be completely shut. The city government has kept two crossings open, in part to allow food from the mainland to enter.

She also said two cruise terminals — including one where a cruise ship is currently under quarantine — will be shut down.

Another cruise ship is under quarantine at a Japanese port. Princess Cruises told CBC News that there were 251 Canadians on the Diamond Princess, which is currently off the Japanese coast. None of the Canadians tested positive for coronavirus in the first step of a screening process, an email from the company said.

Lam said she remains optimistic that the city can overcome the epidemic but urged all citizens to “put aside our differences and get our act together.”

Residents wearing masks and raincoats volunteer to take the temperatures of passengers at a bus stop at Tin Shui Wai, a border town in Hong Kong, on Tuesday. Everyone entering Hong Kong from mainland China will soon be subject to a 14-day quarantine. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

The outbreak is hitting Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways, which has asked its 27,000 employees to take three weeks of unpaid leave, saying conditions were as grave now as during the 2009 financial crisis.

American Airlines Group and United Airlines said they would suspend flights to and from Hong Kong after this week, a step that would leave no U.S. carriers flying passengers to the Asian financial hub.

More than 24,500 cases 

As of Wednesday, China had reported 490 deaths and 24,324 confirmed cases on the mainland. In addition, Hong Kong has had 17 cases, including one death. Macao has had 10 cases. Most of the deaths have been in central Hubei province, where illnesses from the new type of coronavirus were first detected in December.

The viral outbreak has infected more than 24,500 people globally.

In Singapore, the health ministry said Wednesday that officials there had confirmed four more cases — including parents and their six-month-old baby. That brings the country’s total to 28. This comes after Singapore on Tuesday reported its first cases of citizens and residents who had contracted the virus without recent travel to China, where the outbreak first surfaced at the end of last year.

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On Wednesday, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced it would commit $100 million US to help the efforts to stamp out the coronavirus outbreak. The money, which includes a previous commitment of $10 million, will go to efforts to detect cases, help patients and develop treatments and vaccines, the Seattle-based foundation said.

Health officials in British Columbia announced on Tuesday another presumptive coronavirus case. Dr. Bonnie Henry said the most recent suspected case is a woman in her 50s who lives in the Vancouver area. Members of her family had been in Hubei province, Henry said.

The family members have been minimizing contact with people outside the woman’s home, where they are staying. Henry said the woman is isolated and in stable condition at home and Vancouver Coastal Health is following up with anyone the woman has been in contact with.

If the B.C. case is confirmed by the national testing laboratory in Winnipeg, it would be Canada’s fifth confirmed case. The Public Health Agency of Canada says the risk to Canadians from coronavirus is low. 

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