January 28, 2020 / 7:23 AM / 21 days ago

WHO chief says confident in China's ability to contain virus, urges calm

BEIJING (Reuters) - The World Health Organisation’s director-general said on Tuesday he is confident in China’s ability to control and contain the spread of a new coronavirus, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

At a meeting with authorities in Beijing, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he approved of the Chinese government’s measures to curb the outbreak so far, according to a statement posted on the foreign affairs ministry’s website.

The death toll from the virus has climbed to 106 in China and cases are being reported in a growing number of other countries.

The WHO called the epidemic “an emergency in China” on Jan. 23, but stopped short of declaring it a global public health emergency.

Tedros said he does not advocate the evacuation of foreign nationals currently in China, and urged people to stay calm.

Several countries including the United States, France, Japan, South Korea, and Morocco have said they will evacuate some citizens from Wuhan, a city of 11 million in central China and the epicentre of the outbreak.

Wuhan, where the virus emerged late last year, apparently in a market illegally selling wildlife, has been put on a virtual lockdown with bans on almost all transport and public gatherings.

Tens of millions of others in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, live under some form of travel curbs in a bid to contain the spread of the virus.

The coronavirus can cause pneumonia, but it is too early to know just how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads.

Some health experts have questioned whether China can contain it.

Chinese health officials say the incubation period could range from one to 14 days, and the virus is infectious during that time. The WHO estimated an incubation period of two to 10 days.

Reporting by Josh Horwitz, Winni Zhou and Gabriel Crossley; Editing by Kim Coghill & Shri Navaratnam

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