Coronavirus latest: World Health Organisation officially names illness COVID-19

Medical workers treat patients in the isolated intensive care unit at a hospital in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province.
Medical workers treat patients in the isolated intensive care unit at a hospital in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province. Copyright Chinatopix via AP
By Lauren ChadwickAlessio Dell'Anna
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button
Copy/paste the article video embed link below:Copy to clipboardCopied

The death toll for the COVID-19 outbreak has surpassed 1,000 in China with over 40,000 cases.


COVID-19. The coronavirus has a new name but should still be treated as public enemy number one. That's the message from the World Health Organisation (WHO), in its gravest warning yet about the deadly outbreak.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned governments not to underestimate the political and social risks of the virus, which has already killed more than 1,000 people, but added that countries can realistically thwart the threat if enough resources are allocated.

“Viruses can have more powerful consequences than any terrorist action,” Ghebreyesus said during a daily briefing on Tuesday.

He also confirmed the new name, a revision on the former 2019-nCoV.

Discussing the reasons for the decision, he said: "We had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease."

"Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatising. It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks."

The death toll for the novel outbreak centred in China surpassed 1,000 people on Tuesday as some countries ramped up efforts to contain the virus.

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam asked members of the public to stay at home and avoid crowded places. Meanwhile, South Korea urged citizens not to travel to Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore, according to the local Yonhap News Agency.

The virus has infected over 43,000 people and its death toll has already surpassed that of the SARS outbreak in 2003.

At the epicentre of the outbreak in Hubei province, two health officials were fired, Chinese state media said. The move comes after an outcry over the handling of the outbreak.

It also follows the death of doctor Li Wenliang who had given an early warning about the virus fuelling further criticism of Chinese officials.

Outside of China, the virus has appeared in 24 countries after first being reported in late December in Wuhan, China.

'Serious and imminent'

The UK said on Monday that the novel coronavirus outbreak constitutes a "serious and imminent threat to public health".

The health department announced on Monday that four more patients had tested positive for the virus bringing the total number of cases in the country to eight.

"The new cases are all known contacts of a previously confirmed UK case, and the virus was passed on in France," Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, said.

That previously confirmed case is widely reported to be a UK businessman who had travelled from Singapore stayed in a ski resort in the Alps. He is linked to an additional five cases of coronavirus in France.

Those five people are currently being hospitalised in Lyon, Saint-Etienne, and Grenoble. This brings the total number of cases in Europe to 43.

Meanwhile, at least 791 people in the United Kingdom tested negative for the virus. The foreign office has advised UK citizens to leave China.


Many countries have repatriated citizens from the epicentre of the outbreak, Wuhan, China. Those citizens are being held in quarantine for a total of two weeks, the approximate incubation period of the virus.

There will be an extraordinary EU meeting of a council of health ministers later in the week, EU crisis management commissioner Janez Lenarčič told reporters.

"Now is the time to pull our forces together," he said.

Cruise ship quarantine

An additional 39 passengers aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total to 169 people on the cruise. The ship is anchored in Yokohama port and being quarantined until at least February 19.

Infected passengers were evacuated by the Japanese coast guard and being treated in the country.


A total of 3,700 people from 56 different countries are on board the ship.

Read more: Coronavirus outbreak: 66 additional cases of virus confirmed on cruise ship near Tokyo

Hong Kong, meanwhile, lifted a quarantine on another cruise ship - World Dream - after testing crew members aboard the ship.

The ship was placed under quarantine after eight Chinese passengers on a voyage last month were diagnosed with the virus.

France ramps-up efforts to fight the epidemic


The French ministry of health announced on Monday evening that it will invest €2.5 million in new research on coronavirus.

France's health and research ministries said in a joint press statement that they will use these resources "to reinforce those already put in place by research laboratories since the virus outbreak started".

"As soon as the World Health Organisation announced the first suspected cases of an epidemic of viral pneumonia in the city of Wuhan in early January, a 'task force' was mobilised to ensure the sharing of scientific information and coordinate the French research effort", the two ministries added.

The task force formed in response to the epidemic has identified several areas of work, including monitoring the epidemic and studying the characterisation of the virus, as well as implementing and improving diagnostic techniques and therapeutic approaches.

Share this articleComments

You might also like

Coronavirus: EU health ministers called to Brussels for emergency talks

Coronavirus: What is a 'super spreader' and how does it apply to the outbreak?

The language of fear used in media reports about the coronavirus is stoking prejudice ǀ View