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Health Swiss offer help to combat spread of coronavirus

People wearing face masks

The first cases of coronavirus were reported in China but the illness appears to have spread outside Asia raising concerns of a pandemic.

(Keystone/David Chang)

Interior Minister Alain Berset says Switzerland is well prepared to face an outbreak of coronavirus and is ready to support international efforts to prevent a pandemic.

Speaking at the sidelines of the annual gathering of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Berset said there was a contingency plan that could be implemented in case of a pandemic of the respiratory illness discovered in China earlier this month.

Berset, whose portfolio includes health matters, said Switzerland was ready to help international efforts to contain the virus.

“Switzerland, which hosts the headquarters of the WHO [World Health Organization], is not indifferent to the situation,” Berset said.

He met the WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on Wednesday, as well as the health ministers from Brazil and the Netherlands and the executive director of UN Women, the United Nations agency dedicated to promoting gender equality.

Pandemic concerns

Meanwhile, a panel of experts on disease control, virology and vaccine development are meeting at the WHO headquarters in Geneva to evaluate whether the outbreak of the new coronavirus constitutes an international emergency.

The virus has spread beyond China’s borders, raising concerns of a global pandemic. A first case of the illness was confirmed by United States officials on Tuesday.

The death toll in China from the infection had risen to at least 17 by Wednesday.

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