Coronavirus: Europe is now epicentre of COVID-19 pandemic, says WHO chief

The head of the World Health Organisation says Europe has now become the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 5,000 people have died worldwide after being diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.

Speaking during a news conference, WHO boss Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called the death toll a “tragic milestone”.

There have been over 3,000 virus-related fatalities in China, where the outbreak began late last year and was the previous epicentre, and also more than 1,000 deaths in Italy, which has been put on lockdown to try and curb the spread of the disease.

Italy is the worst-affected nation in Europe and in its most severely-hit region, Lombardy, the number of deaths has reportedly risen from 744 to 890 in a day.

The WHO said there was a major funding gap for potential coronavirus vaccines.

Dr Tedros said the UN agency was launching a solidarity response plan which will allow people and organisations to pledge money for the coronavirus fight.

He said the cash will be used to buy masks, gloves and gowns for health workers, as well as testing kits and also invest in research and development.

His colleague Dr Mike Ryan said “social distancing” measures – such as people working from home, cancelling large gatherings and closing schools – only slightly slow down the virus so health systems can cope.

He added the measures were not a panacea and were not going to stop the pandemic in its own right.

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