WHO: coronavirus data points to decline in new cases

Despite numbers dropping, the WHO has cautioned that the outbreak still "has the potential to grow." (picture-alliance/AP Photo/Yomiuri Shimbun/DW)

Data shows that that the number of new conronavirus infections appears to be declining in China, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Monday.

The WHO cited a Chinese medical report that detailed more than 44,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

So far, China has reported 70,635 cases of COVID-19 to WHO, which includes 1,772 deaths. In the past 24 hours, China has reported 2051 new cases. 94% of new cases continue to come from Hubei province.

Outside China, the WHO has received reports of 694 cases from 25 countries and three deaths.

"It’s too early to tell if this reported decline will continue. Every scenario is still on the table," the WHO said in a statement.

"This trend must be interpreted very cautiously. Trends can change as new populations are affected, " it warned.

Not as deadly

According to the data, COVID-19 appears to be "not as deadly" as other coronaviruses including SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome). The report adds that more than 80% of patients have mild symptoms and will recover.

In about 14% of cases, COVID-19 causes severe disease, including pneumonia and shortness of breath.

About 5% of patients experiene severe symptoms, including septic shock, respiratory failure, and multi-organ failure.

In 2% of reported cases, the virus is considered fatal, and the risk of death rises the older the infected person is.

Few cases have been found among children. There is still little research conducted as to why this is the case.

WHO calls for more funding

The WHO called for US$675 million (€623 million) to help countries prepare for further cases.

"We have not seen the urgency in funding that we need," WHO said. "… we have a window of opportunity now. We need resources now to ensure countries are prepared now. "

The global health agency warned that it remains uncertain "how long this window of opportunity will remain open. "

'Potential to grow'

"Measures should be taken proportional to the situation. Blanket measures may not help," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.

Michael Ryan, the head of WHO’s health emergencies program, rejected the suggestion that all cruises should be stopped to avoid risking further new infections such as in the case of the coronavirus-hit Diamond Princess off Japan.

"If we are going to disrupt every cruise ship in the world on the off-chance that there might be some potential contact with some potential pathogen then where do we stop?" said Ryan.

He added that while the outbreak is "very serious" and "has the potential to grow," a balance must be put in place in terms of the number of people infected, highlighting that a "very, very tiny, tiny proportion of people" were affected outside Hubei province.

According to Ryan, the measure of the speed of spread of the coronavirus — the "attack rate," was four per 100,000.