'Coronavirus not spreading dramatically outside China'

Coronavirus not spreading dramatically outside China except on cruise ship: WHO

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), 3rd left, with other members of the WHO panel, facing the media about the response to the COVID-19 virus outbreak, at the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. (PTI Photo)

Cases of coronavirus are not rising dramatically outside China apart from passengers on a cruise liner now quarantined off a Japanese port, a senior World Health Organization official said on Thursday.

Mike Ryan, head of WHO's health emergencies programme, said that the spike of some 14,000 cases reported overnight by China reflected a change in approach to list patients in Hubei province whose infections were confirmed by chest imaging, not just those with lab-confirmed results.

"Crucially we understand that most of these cases relate to a period going back over days and weeks and are retrospectively reported as cases, sometimes back to the beginning of the outbreak itself," he told a news conference at WHO headquarters.

"Outside cases on the Diamond Princess cruise ship we are not seeing dramatic increases in transmission outside China," he said, referring to the cruise liner

A further 44 cases were reported on the Diamond Princess on Thursday, raising the total to 219, though authorities said some elderly people would finally to be allowed to disembark on Friday.

Ryan said the rest of a WHO-led mission was expected to start arriving in China over the coming weekend, joining an advance team already in Beijing to help investigate the outbreak.

"In terms of the international mission, the advance team and their Chinese counterparts have now finalised the scope of work and design of the mission," he said.

Ryan declined to say whether experts from the US Centers of Disease Control (CDC) would be part of the mission or to give details on members or nationalities.

"But I can assure you the team is top-class scientists from all over world and all of the relevant countries who can contribute to an endeavour such as this," he said. 

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