Health and Science

World Health Organization to send delegation to China to help combat coronavirus outbreak

Key Points
  • The WHO is sending a delegation of international experts to China to better understand the coronavirus outbreak.
  • The director-general of the WHO met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing earlier Tuesday.
  • The WHO said its delegation will collaborate with Chinese counterparts to help understand and combat the fast-spreading virus.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a press conference following an emergency talks over the new SARS-like virus spreading in China and other nations in Geneva on January 22, 2020.
Pierre Albouy | AFP | Getty Images

The World Health Organization is sending a delegation of researchers and other health experts to China to help combat the coronavirus outbreak.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing earlier Tuesday. The two were joined by top officials from the WHO and the Chinese government to discuss how best to contain a fast-spreading and deadly virus in Wuhan and other cities and provinces.

"Stopping the spread of this virus both in China and globally is WHO's highest priority," Tedros said in a statement. "We appreciate the seriousness with which China is taking this outbreak, especially the commitment from top leadership, and the transparency they have demonstrated, including sharing data and genetic sequence of the virus."

The WHO said its delegation will collaborate with Chinese counterparts "on increasing understanding of the outbreak to guide global response efforts." A spokesperson declined to further comment on the delegation, including who will be included in the group.

The virus has now killed 106 people in China and infected roughly 4,700 across the world as of Tuesday, according to Chinese and U.S. health authorities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told Americans Tuesday to avoid all nonessential travel to China, expanding its travel warning from the city of Wuhan to the entire country. At a press conference the same day, U.S. health officials announced that it would expand entry screenings for the virus from five airports to 20.

The WHO said the source of the outbreak and the extent to which it has spread remains unknown.

Scott Gottlieb, a former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner and a CNBC contributor, said he's worried that coronavirus cases in China are actually much higher than the official numbers show.

"I think we are dramatically underestimating" cases in China by "tens of thousands," Gottlieb told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

According to the WHO, more data needs to be collected before the virus is declared a global health emergency. The organization declined at two emergency meetings last week to say it was a worldwide emergency.

Still a lot of unknowns with coronavirus: Former ebola czar