Coronavirus outbreak: Expert warns ‘lack of transparency’ biggest threat to containment

Coronavirus has spread to over 10 countries across the world since the virus was first diagnosed in the city of Wuhan, China, in December. Over 60,000 people have been infected in mainland China, and South Korea and Italy have been battling with a rocketing number of cases in the past week. Dr Leana Wen from George Washington University demanded all countries now contending with COVID-19 remain as “transparent” as possible about their response mechanism to avoid turning the outbreak into a bigger threat due to public mistrust. 

Speaking to CNBC, Dr Wen said: “I am very concerned about China and some of the other countries where coronavirus is now spreading to.

“If they have unsteady public institutions, if the public already doesn’t have trust in the government, that could make the outbreak much more difficult to contain.

“Disease knows no boundaries so we’re only as strong as the weakest country in the world.”

Dr Wen added: “Public health depends on public trust – the US Government has been very good about being transparent about their responses.

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“A change in response is actually a good thing as long as someone explains why that change is happening. It just means you’re being nimble and agile in responding to the most recent information.”

Chinese authorities have kept a large section of the Hubei region, where epicentre Wuhan is located, in complete quarantine since the end of January in an attempt to contain the spread of the disease.

While medical staff across the country have expressed optimism over the healing rate, the number of those infected has continued to increase across China and the rest of the world.

South Korea increased security health measures after the number of coronavirus patients surpassed 800, and Italy put a dozen towns between the Lombardy and Veneto regions in lockdown after seven people died and over 200 tested positive to COVID-19.

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The death toll hit 15 in Iran on Tuesday, with the Government of the Islamic Republic denying attempts to play down the impact of the outbreak in the country.

Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harrchii appeared on state television to admit that the number of suspected cases of COVID-19 increased to 916.

A hotel in the tourist hub of Tenerife was locked down on Tuesday after an Italian guest tested positive for coronavirus.

The man, understood to be a doctor, travelled to the Spanish holiday island from the Lombardy region at the centre of the outbreak in Italy.


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The hotel is currently being guarded by members of the local Police who are warning there is no access without authorisation at the gates.

The hotel has said it has implemented “all the sanitary and operational measures recommended” to “ensure the safety of its customers and employees”.

Through a statement, the hotel chain says it is “working closely” with health authorities.

World Health Organisation (WHO) director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Monday that the number of new cases in recent days in Iran, Italy and South Korea was “deeply concerning”.

Mr Ghebreyesus said: “For the moment we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus and we are not witnessing large scale severe disease or deaths.

“Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely, it has. Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet.”

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