The World Health Organization has warned that the coronavirus is “the worst enemy you can ever imagine” which poses a greater global threat than terrorism.
The UN health agency, which is urging the world to ‘wake up’ has also given a new name to the virus: COVID-19. CO stands for corona, VI for virus, D for disease and 19 for the year it emerged.
The Mail Online reports: China hopes the killer virus, which has claimed more than 1,000 lives and struck down over 44,500 people, will be curbed by April.
But WHO’s director general, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, said it could rumble on for more than a year and warned a vaccine could take at least 18 months to develop.
He added: ‘To be honest, a virus is more powerful in creating political, social and economic upheaval than any terrorist attack. It’s the worst enemy you can imagine.’
Yesterday, a top Hong Kong medical official predicted the coronavirus could infect more than 60 per cent of the global population if containment methods fail and the virus hits its spread potential.
Professor Gabriel Leung, chair of public health medicine in the city, speculated on Tuesday that even if the coronavirus kills just 1 per cent of sufferers, it could still wipe out as many as 45million of the estimated 7.58 billion people on Earth.
Health officials hope that faster identification of patients and containment methods will block the virus from reaching its deadly potential, but the outbreak has already sent shock waves through stock markets and supply chains around the world.
The WHO has long believed that a new disease pandemic could rapidly race around the world and destabilise society, due to modern air travel.
Dr Ghebreyesus’ stark warning was a more broad statement about new unknown viruses, not specifically the Chinese coronavirus.
It comes after the United Nations health agency gave the illness its official name, COVID-19.
CO stands for corona, VI for virus, D for disease and 19 for the year it emerged, Dr Ghebreyesus explained on Tuesday when it was revealed.
WHO bosses said they avoided referring to a geographical location, animal or group of people so it would not cause any prejudice.
The virus, which has had various names from simply coronavirus to Wuhan coronavirus, Chinese coronavirus or even snake flu, needs its own moniker because it is just one type of coronavirus.
The word refers to a group of viruses which contains those that cause SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome).
The number of new cases reported in China each day has begun to level off, steadily declining in the last six days.
But scientists tackling the crisis warn the true toll will be much higher than figures show because thousands of patients have only mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.