Novel coronavirus given official name

The World Health Organisation has given the new coronavirus, swamping China and spreading around the world, an official name.

It has been called COVID-19. It was named in way that did not refer to a location, animal, individual or group of people, in a bid to avoid stigma, W.H.O.  Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

The naming format also gives the world a future standard to use for future coronavirus outbreaks, he said. 

It comes as the first international gathering of 400 scientists and experts trying to tackle the novel coronavirus begins in Geneva in a bid to answer several unknowns about the virus that sprung up only two or three months ago.

W.H.O., in coordinating the research and innovation efforts, said the meeting would not be about politics, money, profits or patents, but rather science and solidarity to “fight a common enemy.”

“We need your collective knowledge, insight and experience to answer the questions we don’t have answers to, and to identify the questions we may not even realize we need to ask,” Dr. Ghebreyesus said.

He said he hopes the meeting will result in an agreed plan for both researchers and donors to align on.

There are currently 42,708 confirmed cases and 1017 people deaths in China. Outside China, there are 393 cases in 24 countries, with 1 death, in the Philippines.

At the top of the research agenda, scientists will be looking to learn; the best ways to manage severe cases of the disease, how to diagnose and monitor it, what the period of infectiousness is, how it transmits, where it lives and reproduces, and even what ethical issues exist around the research. 

And to fill the vaccine gap as quickly as possible, the agency will be following its Research and Development Blueprint, initially developed after the West African Ebola outbreak.

The Blueprint outlines how to develop drugs and vaccines before epidemics, and to fast track research and development throughout the epidemic.

“The R and D Blueprint identifies several known pathogens as priorities for research, but also includes scenarios for “pathogen x” – a previously unknown pathogen exactly like the one we are dealing with now,” Dr. Ghebreyesus explained.

“The bottom line is solidarity, solidarity, solidarity. That is especially true in relation to sharing of samples and sequences.

“To defeat this outbreak, we need open and equitable sharing, according to the principles of fairness and equity […] publications, patents and profits are not what matters now.”

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