“Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a Tuesday press briefing in Geneva, Switzerland.
A WHO team inside China has found that the coronavirus fatality rate is between 2% and 4% inside the city of Wuhan in Hubei Province, where the outbreak first originated. Meanwhile, the fatality rate outside Wuhan is 0.7%.
However, according to Tedros, the novel coronavirus does not transmit as easily as the seasonal flu.
Health officials have struggled to obtain accurate counts of infection rates because many people with mild cases of the virus don’t show symptoms and don’t get treatment as a result.
"We understand that people are afraid and uncertain. Fear is a natural human response to any threat, especially when it’s a threat we don’t completely understand. But as we get more data, we are understanding this virus and the disease it causes more and more," Tedros explained, also noting that containment of the virus is still possible, even though more than 94,000 people worldwide have been infected and more than 3,200 have died as a result.
According to Tedros, the main issue affecting countries’ abilities to respond to the virus is “the severe and increasing disruption to the global supply of personal protective equipment caused by rising demand, hoarding and misuse." Shortages in protective equipment are putting health workers at risk of contracting the virus, as the WHO said that a dearth of such equipment is leaving doctors, nurses and other front-line workers "dangerously ill-equipped" to care for COVID-19 patients.
"We can’t stop COVID-19 without protecting our health workers," Tedros noted, calling for a 40% global increase in the manufacture of medical supplies to contain the virus, such as masks.
There are currently 128 cases of the virus in the US, and nine people in the country have died due to the coronavirus - all in Washington state.
China’s response to the coronavirus has been swift and sweeping. Out of the 3,214 global deaths as a result of the disease, the majority of them - 2,871 - have occurred in Hubei Province. However, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV announced Monday that Wuhan has closed down one of the 16 hospitals that were built in record time to combat the virus, as the facility had discharged all of its patients.
By contrast, the first round of coronavirus testing kits in the US were made in a contaminated lab, resulting in a delay in testing across the nation. In a recent statement to Axios, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn said that government agencies worked to resolve the manufacturing issue.
“Upon learning about the test issue from CDC [US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], FDA worked with CDC to determine that problems with certain test components were due to a manufacturing issue,” Hahn said.