WHO holds press conference on the coronavirus outbreak

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World Health Organization officials are holding a press conference to update the public on the coronavirus outbreak, which has now infected more than 350,000 people worldwide.

WHO officials warned Friday that the coronavirus outbreak shouldn’t be dismissed as a bad flu season, saying the virus has overwhelmed hospital systems across the globe in just a few weeks. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s emergencies program, said that 26 million health-care workers may end up treating COVID-19 patients, and there’s a shortage of protective equipment for them.

WHO is also working with scientists across the globe on at least 20 different coronavirus vaccines with some already in clinical trials in record time — just 60 days after sequencing the gene, officials said. However, the vaccines are still a long way away from being available for public use, WHO officials cautioned. Once a vaccine is discovered, there will be logistical, financial and ethical hurdles world leaders will face.

“Even if we get a vaccine that’s effective, we have to have that vaccine that’s available for everybody. There has to be fair and equitable access to that vaccine for everybody,” Ryan said, adding the world won’t be protected from the coronavirus unless everybody is vaccinated.

The coronavirus has infected more than 350,000 people worldwide and has killed at least 14,790, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

— CNBC’s
Emma Newburger
William Feuer
contributed to this report.

Read CNBC’s live updates to see the latest news on the COVID-19 outbreak.

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