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82% of coronavirus cases reported by China are 'mild': WHO

82% of coronavirus cases reported by China are 'mild': WHO

Neighbourhoods in China have ramped up checks on residents returning from virus-hit Hubei province. (Photo: AFP/Noel Celis)

GENEVA: The majority of the novel coronavirus cases in China were considered "mild", the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday (Feb 7).

A breakdown of the 17,000 cases provided by Chinese authorities found that 82 per cent of the cases were mild, 15 per cent severe and 3 per cent critical, said WHO epidemiologist Maria van Kerkhove.

READ: Coronavirus death toll surges past 700, exceeding SARS toll in China and Hong Kong

READ: It's too early to say coronavirus peaking in China: WHO

Referring to overall numbers, she added: "We know that 2 per cent - or less than 2 per cent now - of the reported cases have died."

At least 34,000 have now been infected globally by the virus, which has killed more than 700 people, mainly in China.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that some countries were still failing to share clinical data on confirmed cases of the virus and urged them to do so "immediately".

"We have a common enemy which is dangerous and which can bring serious upheaval, social, political and economic. This is the time to fight it and in unison," said Tedros, speaking to WHO's executive board on Friday. 

Tedros also pointed out that between Wednesday and Thursday, the number of reported cases of the virus declined.

READ: Outrage grows over death of Chinese doctor who sounded coronavirus alarm

He said this was "good news but we caution against reading too much into that - the numbers could go up again".

Tedros added that there was a shortage of masks and other protective equipment against the novel virus. 

WHO said prices for some items were up to 20 times higher than normal, and Tedros told reporters the problem was being made worse by "inappropriate use" of masks by people who were neither sick nor medical staff.

"There are now depleted stockpiles and backlogs of four to six months. Global stocks of masks and respirators are now insufficient to meet the needs of WHO and our partners," he said, adding: "There is a moral issue here."

After speaking to a supply chain group of producers and distributors on Friday, Tedros praised those companies that have promised to sell only to medical staff.

"There is limited stock of PPE and we need to make sure we get it to the people who need it most in the places that need it most," he said, warning against "stockpiling of PPE in countries and areas where transmission is low".

WHO earlier this week said it had started sending masks, gloves, respirators, protective isolation gowns and test kits to countries requiring assistance.

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