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WHO: Europe is now 'epicenter' of pandemic

By CHEN WEIHUA in Brussels | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-03-14 01:53

Director-General of the WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, attends a news conference on the coronavirus (COVID-2019) in Geneva, Switzerland, in this February 24, 2020 file photo. [Photo/Agencies]

The World Health Organization said on Friday that Europe has become the epicenter of the novel coronavirus pandemic and called on countries to continue their fight to contain and control the novel coronavirus.

More COVID-19 cases are being reported in Europe every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic, according to the organization. By Friday, more than 132,000 cases had been reported to the WHO from 123 countries and regions.

The WHO's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the WHO is encouraged that many countries are now acting on the eight pillars of its COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan. He said most countries now have a national plan, most are taking a multi-sectoral approach and most have laboratory testing capacity.

"Our message to countries continues to be: You must take a comprehensive approach," he said.

"No testing alone. Not contact tracing alone. Not quarantine alone. Not social distancing alone. Do it all," he told a virtual press conference in Geneva.

Tedros said that any country that looks at the experience of other countries with large epidemics and thinks "that won't happen to us" is making a deadly mistake.

"It can happen to anyone," he said.

He reiterated that the experience of China, Republic of Korea, Singapore and others clearly demonstrates that aggressive testing and contact tracing, combined with social distancing measures and community mobilization, can prevent COVID-19 infections and save lives.

On Thursday, Belgium, France, Ireland, Austria, Turkey and Norway joined the growing list of countries to shut all schools, universities and kindergartens. Italy, the hardest hit in Europe, saw its death toll from the novel coronavirus exceed 1,000, with more than 15,000 cases.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday that the European Union would do whatever was necessary to support European nations and the European economy.

"I am convinced that the European Union can withstand this shock. But each member state needs to live up to its full responsibility. And the EU as a whole needs to be determined, coordinated and united," she told a press conference announcing European measures to counter the economic impact of the COVID-19.

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