World Health Organisation has warned against a global over-reaction to the new coronavirus epidemic following panic-buying, event cancellations and concerns about cruise ship travel, as China’s official death toll neared 1,900.
More than 72,000 people have now been infected in China and hundreds more abroad, although the World Health Organisation stressed the disease has infected a “tiny” proportion of people outside its epicentre and the mortality rate remains relatively low.
The outbreak is threatening to put a dent in the global economy, with China paralysed by vast quarantine measures and major firms such as iPhone maker Apple and mining giant BHP warning it could damage bottom lines.
Trade fairs, sports competitions and cultural events have been disrupted, while several countries have banned travellers from China and major airlines have suspended flights.
The cruise ship industry has come into focus as hundreds of people became infected aboard a vessel off Japan. One passenger tested positive after disembarking another liner in Cambodia.
The WHO, which has previously said travel restrictions were unnecessary, rejected the suggestion that all cruises should be halted.
“Measures should be taken proportional to the situation. Blanket measures may not help,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.
The WHO has praised China for taking drastic measures to contain the virus.
Authorities have placed about 56 million people in hard-hit central Hubei under quarantine, virtually sealing off the province from the rest of the country.
Other cities far from the epicentre have restricted the movements of residents, while Beijing ordered people arriving to the capital to go into 14-day self-quarantine.