COVID-19: WHO chief issues warning, UK releases action plan, Thailand’s new quarantine rule

World Health Organization director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (right). Photo courtesy: Twitter/@WHO
World Health Organization director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (right). Photo courtesy: Twitter/@WHO

The director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has issued a warning about the novel coronavirus, saying that public health officials are in  "uncharted territory" as they try to fight the outbreak. 

"We have never before seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission, but which can also be contained with the right measures," said Dr. Ghebreyesus.

COVID-19 has infected over 90,000 people in 73 countries with over 3100 deaths across the globe, as of March 2. The virus has spread to every continent except Antarctica. 

UK releases coronavirus action plan

The United Kingdom government has released its action plan to tackle the coronavirus outbreak which has seen 51 people infected in the nation as of March 3. The plan was agreed upon at an emergency COBRA meeting on Monday, headed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. 

The government has said "it is possible that up to one fifth of employees may be absent from work" during the peak of a coronavirus epidemic in the UK.

As per the action plan, "police would concentrate on responding to serious crimes and maintaining public order" in the case of a significant loss of officers and staff.

Other measures that will be put in place if the disease becomes "established in the UK," include, "school closures, encouraging greater home working, (and) reducing the number of large scale gatherings."

  • Other measures that could be put in place are: 
  • Concessions may be made by tax officials if businesses struggle to pay tax bills
  • Some non-urgent care in the NHS may be delayed to focus on treating coronavirus patients
  • Recently retired staff may be called back
  • Hospital discharges could be monitored to free up beds
  • All government departments to have a lead person for coronavirus
  • Helping businesses with short-term cash-flow problems, including giving them longer to pay bills
  • A "distribution strategy" for the UK's stockpiles of key medicines and equipment such as protective clothing

"Let me be absolutely clear that for the overwhelming majority of people who contract the virus, this will be a mild disease from which they will speedily and fully recover, as we have already seen," Prime Minister Johnson said. 

Thailand imposes compulsory self-quarantine, including for passengers from Singapore 

Thailand’s Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has said that passengers arriving from 14 countries and territories in Asia, the Middle East and Europe will be forced to self-quarantine by Thai authorities.

The countries in the list include Singapore, Japan, Germany, South Korea, China, Macao, Hong Kong, Taiwan, France, Italy and Iran – these have all been declared as "dangerous communicable disease areas."

Travelers from these countries will be quarantined for 14 days even if they are asymptomatic.