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WHO warns against global overreaction to coronavirus outbreak

BEIJING:  The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned against a global overreaction to the new coronavirus epidemic following panic-buying, event cancellations and concerns about cruise ship travel.

The WHO said the disease has infected a "tiny" proportion of people outside its epicentre and the mortality rate remains relatively low.

The outbreak is threatening to put a dent in the global economy, with China paralysed by vast quarantine measures and major firms such as iPhone-maker Apple and mining giant BHP warning it could damage bottom lines.

Trade fairs, sports competitions and cultural events have been disrupted, while several countries have banned travellers from China and major airlines have suspended flights.

The cruise ship industry has come into focus as hundreds of people have got infected aboard a vessel off Japan.

One passenger tested positive after disembarking another liner in Cambodia.

The WHO, which has previously said travel restrictions were unnecessary, rejected the suggestion that all cruises should be halted.

PROPORTIONAL

"Measures should be taken proportional to the situation. Blanket measures may not help," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.

The WHO has praised China for taking drastic measures to contain the virus.

The authorities have placed about 56 million people in hard-hit central Hubei under quarantine, virtually sealing off the province from the rest of the country. Other cities far from the epicentre have restricted the movements of residents, while Beijing ordered people arriving in the capital to go into a 14-day self-quarantine.

The coronavirus has killed nearly 1,900 people and infected more than 72,000 in China.

With the mortality rate at around 2 per cent, Covid-19 is "less deadly" than its cousins, severe acute respiratory syndrome and the Middle East respiratory syndrome, the WHO said.

There have been some 900 cases around the world, with only five deaths outside China - in France, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

More than 80 per cent of patients with the disease have mild symptoms and recover, the WHO said. - AFP

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