GENEVA: An international business meeting held at the Grand Hyatt Singapore did not appear to have spread the virus widely, according to an expert from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Dr Mike Ryan, WHO's top emergencies expert, when asked about the meeting on Jan 20-22, said it did not appear to have spread the virus widely.
"No, I think it is way too early and much more of an exaggeration to consider the Singapore conference event a 'super-spreading event'," Ryan said.
There are more than 40 confirmed cases in Singapore, including 21 associated with import from China and 19 locally acquired with no history of travel, he said.
"The Singapore conference cluster has 12 cases associated with it. Those five in France, the three in Singapore itself, and then (South) Korea, Malaysia and the United Kingdom," Ryan added, noting that those figures were in the single digits.
"So are we not dealing here with a super-spreading event, people are comparing it to the Amoy Gardens or to the Metropole hotel," he said, referring to the SARS outbreak in 2002/2003.
An advance WHO team of medical experts arrived in China on Monday to investigate the coronavirus outbreak, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva.
Tedros, who visited Beijing for talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese ministers in late January, returned with an agreement on sending an international mission.
It took nearly two weeks to get the green light from the Chinese government on the team, which Tedros said would number between 10 and 15.
There have been 40,235 confirmed cases reported in China and 909 deaths, as well as 319 cases in 24 other countries, including one death, he said.
Tedros voiced concern at incidents, reported by European authorities at the weekend, of person-to person spread of the virus by people with no history of travel to China.
"In recent days, we have seen some concerning instances of onward transmission from people with no travel history to China, like the cases reported in France yesterday and the United Kingdom today," he said.
"The detection of this small number of cases could be the spark that becomes a bigger fire. But for now it's only a spark. Our objective remains containment."
Tedros urged countries to take public health measures to help "prevent a bigger fire", adding: "This is a message for the whole world. This is a common enemy that we can only defeat if we do it in unison."