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Coronavirus outbreak: Window of opportunity narrowing, says WHO chief

GENEVA: The World Health Organization Director General while commenting coronavirus outbreak said the “window of opportunity is narrowing, so we need to act quickly before it closes completely”.

“This outbreak could go in any direction,” , Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said. “If we do well, we can avert any serious crisis, but if we squander the opportunity then we will have a serious problem on our hands.”

The increase in Middle East cases and Italy reported its first death – a 78-year-old man- as the outbreak being reported in several parts of the world.

Italy had earlier identified 16 new cases, with authorities in the north ordering the closure of schools, bars and other public places in 10 towns. More than 50,000 people have been asked to stay at home, while all public activities such as church masses and sporting events have been banned for up to a week.

Iranian health authorities reported two deaths on Friday, according to Mehr news agency, adding to the two elderly patients who died on Wednesday. A further 14 people tested positive for the virus.

The outbreak in Iran began in the city of Qom, an often-visited religious destination. The health ministry official Minou Mohrez warned it had since spread to several cities, including the capital, Tehran, official IRNA news agency said.

“It’s possible that it exists in all cities in Iran,” she said, adding the source of the virus was likely a Chinese worker in Qom.

The threat posed is especially concerning in Iran after several years of tightening US sanctions by the Trump administration that have dangerously undermined the domestic health care system.

To prevent infections, neighbouring Iraq shut its land crossings with Iran.

In Ukraine, protesters on Thursday attacked buses carrying 45 Ukrainians and 27 other evacuees from the Chinese province of Wuhan, the virus’ centre, to the small town of Novi Sanzhary, fearing they would be a health hazard.

The Ukrainian government has planned to quarantine the people at a sanatorium for two weeks. In an attempt to calm the demonstrators, the health minister, Zoryana Skaletska, pledged to spend the next two weeks in the same sanatorium.

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