After earlier describing cases of infection in people with no travel history to China as possibly the “tip of the iceberg”, the WHO Director-General warned in Geneva that while the spread of the respiratory disease appeared to be slow, it could accelerate.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told the media: “The detection of this small number of cases could be the spark that becomes a bigger fire, but for now, it’s only a spark. Our objective remains containment.”
As of Monday, WHO reported 40,235 confirmed cases in China, where the virus was declared on 31 December – and 909 deaths.
Outside the country there have been 319 cases in 24 countries and one death, with reported infections in France and the United Kingdom in the past two days.
For his part, Dr Michael J Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme said: “This is not a voyage into the dark.
“This is going to reconnect with scientists that we’re already working with on a day to day basis, over many, many years. So this is about increasing the levels of cooperation, not establishing cooperation.”
Last week the African CDC conducted training in Senegal with 12 countries, using tests sent by WHO. Further training will take place in South Africa next week.