WHO Names Coronavirus ‘Covid-19’, as Death Toll Climbs to 1,018


* To convene forum of 400 scientists for global action against virus

By Martins Ifijeh

The strain of Coronavirus that has killed 1,018 persons and infected 43,141 others across 28 countries has been given the name ‘Covid-19’ by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Speaking at a media briefing on Tuesday in Geneva, the Director General, WHO, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, said the name was designed to avoid inaccuracy and de-stigmatise China and Chinese people in relation to the virus.

He said: “Having a name matters to prevent the use of other improper names. It also gives us a standard format to use for any future Coronavirus outbreaks.

“The name was chosen to avoid references to a specific geographical location, animal species or group of people in line with international recommendations for naming in order to avoid stigmatization,” noting that ‘co’ stands for ‘Corona’, ‘vi’ for ‘virus’ and ‘d’ for ‘disease’.

WHO had earlier given the virus the temporary name of “2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease” and China’s National Health Commission Monday said it was temporarily calling it “novel coronavirus pneumonia” or NCP.

Ghebreyesus said he saw a realistic chance of stopping the outbreak. “We are not defenceless. We have to use the current window of opportunity to hit hard and stand in unison to fight this virus in every corner. If we don’t we could have far more cases and far higher costs on our hands,” he said.

WHO said following the spread of the disease, it was convening a global forum of 400 scientists to mobilise and coordinate global action in response to the disease.

Ghebreyesus said the health body had also activated a United Nations Crisis Management Team which will help WHO focus on the health response, and help in addressing the economic and developmental implication of the deadly virus.

“We are now looking at a research roadmap for organisations that fund research to have a clear sense of what the public health priorities are.

“The development of vaccines and therapeutics is one important part of the research agenda, but it is only a part. They will take time to develop, but meantime, we are not defenseless. There are many basic public health interventions that are available to us now,” he added.