“Currently we are not in a pandemic,” Sylvie Briand, head of WHO’s Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness division, told reporters in Geneva.
The disease has killed more than 425 people and infected a further 20,000 in China, nearly all of them in central Hubei province – the epicentre of the outbreak — and spread to two-dozen countries since it emerged in December.
“We would like to make sure that we don’t have a second Hubei type of scenario,” she said.
Wearing mask ‘Not Enough’
“Countries are implementing early case detection, early isolation and treatment of patients, contact tracing to make sure they identify very early contacts that become symptomatic,” Briand pointed out.
The respiratory disease spreads through droplets, for instance when people sneeze or cough, or likely through direct contact with infected people or with objects they have touched.
“To stop transmission of this virus, it is very important that sick people wear masks” to avoid infecting others, she said, adding though the benefits of healthy people wearing masks as a precautionary measure were less clear.
People wearing masks but not taking other precautions like frequently washing their hands could have a “false sense of security”, she said.
“Masks alone are not enough. It is a package of measures that you have to put in place,” she said.