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Newsdeck

WHO says coronavirus cases stabilising in China, but outbreak could go any way

BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 09: A Chinese woman wears a protective mask as she has her temperature checked before entering a park with her child on February 9, 2020 in Beijing, China. The number of cases of a deadly new coronavirus rose to more than 37000 in mainland China Sunday, days after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a global public health emergency. China continued to lock down the city of Wuhan in an effort to contain the spread of the pneumonia-like disease which medicals experts have confirmed can be passed from human to human. In an unprecedented move, Chinese authorities have put travel restrictions on the city which is the epicentre of the virus and municipalities in other parts of the country affecting tens of millions of people. The number of those who have died from the virus in China climbed to over 810 on Sunday, mostly in Hubei province, and cases have been reported in other countries including the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, India, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and several others. The World Health Organization has warned all governments to be on alert and screening has been stepped up at airports around the world. Some countries, including the United States, have put restrictions on Chinese travelers entering and advised their citizens against travel to China. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

GENEVA, Feb 12 (Reuters) - The number of cases of infection with the new coronavirus in China has stabilised, but the apparent slowdown in the epidemic spread should be viewed with "extreme caution", the head of the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.

“This outbreak could still go in any direction,” the WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told a briefing in Geneva.

At the end of a two-day meeting on science and innovation into measures to tackle the new viral outbreak, Tedros welcomed the “positive response of the research community” at short notice “to come up with concrete plans and commitment to work together”.

He added that a WHO-led advance team that travelled to China earlier this week had made “good progress” on the composition and scope of its work.

China reported on Wednesday its lowest number of new coronavirus cases in two weeks.

The head of the WHO’s emergency programme, Mike Ryan, also said the stabilisation of new case numbers in China was reassuring, as was the apparently less aggressive and less accelerated behaviour of the virus outside of Hubei province.

“(That) is to a great extent due to a huge public health operation in China,” he told the briefing. “That … gives us an opportunity for containment.”

Ryan added that it was still too early “to predict the beginning, the middle or end of the epidemic”. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Kate Kellandin London, editing by Nick Macfie)

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