WHO Declares Global Health Emergency as Coronavirus Cases Confirmed in 18 Countries
By Julia Conley
Amid reports that the strain of coronavirus first detected in Wuhan, China has now spread to 18 countries, the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency on Thursday.
WHO held an emergency committee meeting to discuss the respiratory disease, called 2019-nCoV by global health experts, which has spread from person-to-person in at least five countries, including China, Germany, Japan, Vietnam, and the U.S.
"There are now 98 2019-nCoV cases in 18 countries outside China," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO.
"We don't know what sort of damage this 2019-nCoV virus could do if it were to spread in a country with a weaker health system. We must act now to help countries prepare for that possibility," he added. "For all of these reasons, I am declaring a public health emergency of international concern over the global outbreak of 2019-nCoV."
LIVE: Press conference on the Emergency Committee meeting on #2019nCoV https://t.co/hTQam7RWc9— World Health Organization (WHO) (@World Health Organization (WHO))1580413048.0
Following the declaration, countries will be required to follow more stringent disease reporting guidelines. More funding and resources are expected to be released to fight the outbreak.
China has reported more than 7,700 cases of the disease and 170 deaths. So far, there have been no deaths from the disease outside of China.
On Thursday, the first human-to-human transmission case was confirmed in the U.S., where at least six people have been sickened. A man in the Chicago area reportedly contracted the coronavirus from his wife, who had recently returned from Wuhan.
Tedros emphasized that all but seven coronavirus cases outside China have been detected in patients who recently traveled to Wuhan.
On Thursday, Russia closed its 2,600-mile border with China to stop the transmission of the virus.
WHO said at its meeting that while countries should be prepared for containment and isolation of patients with confirmed coronavirus cases, restricting movement may have limited benefits and many drawbacks for the global population.
"Evidence has shown that restricting the movement of people and goods during public health emergencies may be ineffective and may divert resources from other interventions," the organization said. "Further, restrictions may interrupt needed aid and technical support, may disrupt businesses, and may have negative effects on the economies of countries affected by the emergencies."
Tedros also praised the Chinese government for its swift detection and reporting of the outbreak.
"We would have seen many more cases outside China by now — and probably deaths — if it were not for the government's efforts, and the progress they have made to protect their own people and the people of the world," the director-general said.
Ninety-nine percent of the coronavirus cases have been in China, and the disease has a 2% death rate as of Thursday. The number of cases has surpassed the cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that were reported during an outbreak in 2002 and 2003.
Other global health organizations pledged to work in cooperation to help fight the spread of the illness, while health professionals worked to combat the spread of misinformation about coronavirus on social media.
The novel #coronavirus is officially a public health emergency of international concern, @WHO has declared.… https://t.co/7tKrGvFCVK— UNICEF (@UNICEF)1580416288.0
With the price gouging of masks from unscrupulous sellers, let me be the first to say, as a physician, that you don… https://t.co/ITzr1LOobI— Eugene Gu, MD (@Eugene Gu, MD)1580417950.0
CDC confirmed the first US case of person-to-person spread of #2019nCoV in a patient who had close contact w/ a tra… https://t.co/3rwaiHPLL3— CDC (@CDC)1580415896.0
"This is the time for facts, not fear," tweeted Tedros. "This is the time for science, not rumors. This is the time for solidarity, not stigma."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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