The coronavirus will henceforth be known as “Covid-19”, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday.
WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said in Geneva while addressing journalists on the status of the disease that having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing.
The disease was first detected in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China and has since spread to 24 other countries. There is also no certainty on how far the disease would spread before a cure or vaccine is found to curb the spread of the disease.
In the last seven weeks, Covid-19 had been reported as coronavirus or 2019-nCoV, until scientists came up with the new official name.
Mr Ghebreyesus said giving the novel disease a name would give the health community a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks.
He said the new name was a coordination under agreed guidelines between WHO, the World Organisation for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
“We had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease.
Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases and the death toll from the disease has continued to rise.
“As of 6am Geneva time on Tuesday, there were 42,708 confirmed COVID19 cases reported in China and tragically about 1017 people in China have lost their lives to this virus.
“Of which outside China, there are 393 cases in 24 countries, with 1 death.”
According to China’s National Health Commission, while there has been a steady decline in the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 outside Hubei in the last three days, the total number of new confirmed cases outside Hubei in the past seven days was 4916.
The National Health Commission said it had received 42,638 reports of confirmed cases and 1,016 deaths on the Chinese mainland, and in all 3,996 patients had been cured and discharged from hospital. There still remained 21,675 suspected cases.
So far, 187,728 are now under medical observation, who have been identified as having had close contact with infected patients.
The number of confirmed infections in Hong Kong and Macao Taiwan province had risen to 70 in total, according to the commission.
WHO said it is not yet relenting in efforts to find a cure and vaccine to curb the spread of disease.
Mr Ghebreyesus said the agency will leverage on the power of the entire UN system in the Covid-19 response.
He said the agency has activated a UN Crisis Management Team, to be led by Mike Ryan.
“This will help WHO focus on the health response while the other agencies can bring their expertise to bear on the wider social, economic & developmental implications of the COVID19 outbreak”
“As you know, today and tomorrow WHO is hosting a meeting of more than 400 scientists from around the world, both in person and virtually.”
He said the main outcome expected from the meeting is not immediate answers to every question but to give a research roadmap which is important for organizations that fund research to have a clear sense of what the public health priorities are, so they can make investments that deliver the biggest public health impact
“The development of vaccines & therapeutics is one important part of the research agenda – but it is only one part. They will take time to develop, but in the meantime, we are not defenceless”