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Coronavirus

WHO calls emergency meeting as new coronavirus spreads

Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a news conference on the situation of the coronavirus at the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, January 29, 2020
Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a news conference on the situation of the coronavirus at the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, January 29, 2020 REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called an emergency meeting for Thursday to determine whether a fast-developing outbreak caused by a new virus in China should be declared a global health emergency.

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Speaking in Geneva on Wednesday, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the spread of the coronavirus had prompted him to call an emergency meeting.

China is battling more than 7000 confirmed cases of the pneumonia-like epidemic, which so far has killed 170 people, according to officials.

The number of cases grew by around 1,500 from Tuesday, a more than 30% increase.

"In the last few days the progress of the virus, especially in some countries, especially human-to-human transmission, worries us," WHO Director-General Ghebreyesus added.

Flights cancelled

The scale of the deepening crisis was emphasised with the total number of infections on the Chinese mainland exceeding that of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2002-2003.

A growing number of governments, including the United States, Britain and Germany, have advised their citizens to avoid non-essential travel to China.

Air France has announced that it is suspending all flights to the city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, until further notice.

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