The novel coronavirus has been officially named by the World Health Organization as COVID-19; on the first day of a global consultation; with about 400 researchers and public health experts charged with designing a coherent way forward to confront the expanding epidemic.
However, as the case count rose by Tuesday, February 10; to 42,747 people with confirmed infections in China and 394 abroad, and the death count rose to 1018 people, according to the latest Beijing government data; there were still far more questions than answers about coronavirus.
“The main outcome we expect from this meeting is not immediate answers to every question that we have,” said World Health Organization Director-General; Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, at a Tuesday press briefing.
This was on the first day of the Global Research & Innovation Forum convened by WHO in Geneva.
“The main outcome is an agreed roadmap on what questions we need to ask; and how we will go about answering those questions.”
“We were instructed not to speak externally really; but what I’ll say is that the atmosphere was quite good and the report will be quite action-focused,” one participant from a leading global health research institution revealed.
As soon as a public health emergency was declared on 30 January; WHO swung into action to equip low-income countries, particularly in Africa, with diagnostics to identify the virus in suspected cases.
However, if cases begin to appear in Africa or other very low-income regions; other serious capacity issues will emerge for health systems; including quarantine and containment facilities, which are expensive to mount and maintain.
There is also a lack of hospital respiratory equipment to support those with pneumonia-like symptoms – one of the most common features of serious illness; one WHO official noted on Tuesday.