WHO raises Novel Coronavirus threat assessment to highest level

The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised its global risk assessment of the novel coronavirus to its highest level at global level after the epidemic spread to sub-Saharan Africa and caused financial markets to plunge.

WHO Director General Dr. Tedros said that most cases can still be traced to known contacts or clusters of cases adding that there are no evidence as yet that the virus is spreading freely in communities.

He also informed that work is also progressing on vaccines and therapeutics. More than 20 vaccines are in development globally, and several therapeutics are in clinical trials. He expected the first results of these trials in a few weeks.

Menawhile, South Korea has reported on Saturday its biggest surge in new COVID-19 cases with 594 new cases confirmed on Friday. The increase brings the total number of infections in South Korea to 2,931, according to the Korea Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

Seventeen people have died in the country so far. South Korea has the highest number of confirmed cases outside China where the outbreak started. Concerns have also grown of a possible epidemic in the United States with the reports of a number of new cases without any known source of infection.

The virus has rapidly spread across the world over the past week, causing stock markets to sink to their lowest levels since the 2008 global financial crisis over fears that the disease could wreak havoc on the world economy. More than 2,900 people have died and over 85,000 have been infected in more than 45 countries since it emergence in December last year.

Meanwhile Bahrain today threatened legal prosecution against travelers who came from Iran and hadn’t been tested for the new coronavirus, and also barred public gatherings for two weeks as confirmed cases across the wider Mideast grew to over 520.

Bahrain has been hard-hit with cases and shut down flights to halt the spread of the virus, which causes the illness named COVID-19 by experts. All of Bahrain’s cases link back to Iran, whose death toll of 34 killed is the worst outside of China, the epicenter of the virus.

Saudi Arabia announced today it would bar citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council from Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina over concerns about the virus’ spread. The GCC is a six-nation group including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Saudi Arabia had earlier closed off the holy sites to foreign pilgrims over the coronavirus, affecting plans later this year for millions, ahead of the fasting month of Ramadan and the annual hajj pilgrimage.