Chinese health experts said on Monday that they have found effective methods to treat the novel coronavirus which has now killed more than 1,770 people.
Guo Yanhong, deputy director of the Medical Administration Bureau of National Health Commission (NHC) said that as of February 16, more than 10,000 patients had been treated and discharged from Chinese hospitals.
The antimalarial drug Chloroquine Phosphate was found to have a certain curative effect on the virus, Chinese doctors said. Patients also received antiviral drugs.
At least 71,300 people have been infected by the virus worldwide — 70,635 of them in China.
‘No zero risk’
It comes as the World Health Organization warned people to avoid stigmatising others with Dr Michael Ryan explaining on Monday that even though the coronavirus outbreak is “serious”, outside of Hubei province in China, it’s affecting a “very tiny, tiny, tiny proportion of people”.
Total deaths in China from the illness, named COVID-19 by the World Health Organisation, stand at 1,772, with one in Hong Kong, France, the Philippines, Japan and Taiwan.
“Measures should be taken proportional to the situation based on public health signs and evidence and blanket measures may not help,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization.
“There’s no zero risk in the world for anything … we need an approach to managing risk that allows us to continue to operate as a society while minimising the risks that we know about,” Dr Michael Ryan, the international body’s expert in charge of health emergencies said.
The international health body said the virus was not as deadly as other coronaviruses including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, SARS, and Middle East respiratory syndrome, MERS. In more than 80% of cases, the virus is mild.
The WHO also responded to questions about the diagnostic test, stating that no test is “foolproof”.
Meanwhile, Chinese authorities announced a drop in new cases of coronavirus, an update that should be interpreted “very cautiously” the World Health Organisation said on Monday.
Cruise ship infections
There have been hundreds of cases of the virus onboard the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship that has been quarantined off the coast of Japan. The ship was supposed to be in quarantine until February 19 but that could now last longer.
“Infection prevention and control measures are difficult to implement in a ship environment because there are a number of factors that are very difficult to be put under control,” said the World Health Organization’s Dr Sylvie Briand, comparing the situation to other infection outbreaks on cruise ships.
The US has already repatriated hundreds of their nationals from the ship and they are now being held in quarantine at a military base in Texas.
The UK Foreign Office said in a statement that they are also working to organise a flight back for British citizens.
“Our staff are contacting British nationals on board to make the necessary arrangements. We urge all those who have not yet responded to get in touch immediately,” it explained.
Another ship, the Westerdam, had been cleared to disembark guests in Cambodia on February 14. The ship had been at sea for 14 days and several countries had turned them away.
“All guests on board are healthy and despite erroneous reports, there are no known or suspected cases of coronavirus on board, nor have there ever been,” the owner, Holland America Line cruises, wrote in a statement on February 12.
But one guest tested positive days after disembarking the ship, Malaysia’s deputy prime minister said at a press conference on February 16.