MUNICH — As the number of coronavirus cases surges past 60,000, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on global leaders to not politicize the deadly outbreak.
"We must stop stigma and hate," he said Saturday during an address at the Munich Security Conference.
"It's easy to blame, it's easy to politicize, it's harder to tackle a problem together and find solutions together," he added. "We will all learn lessons from this outbreak, but now is not the time for reclamations or politicization."
His comments come on the heels of the first coronavirus death confirmed in Europe, an elderly Chinese tourist who was hospitalized in late January. There have been reports from around the world that people of Asian descent have faced discrimination in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
On Saturday, the U.S. State Department announced it would evacuate American citizens stuck aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship that's been quarantined off the coast of Japan. The vessel represents the largest cluster of infected people outside China, with 285 confirmed cases out of 3,500 passengers and crew.
The flu-like virus, now named COVID-19, has killed more than 1,500 people and sickened more than 66,400 worldwide.
Earlier in the day, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi also addressed the Munich Security Conference and said the epidemic has proven to be controllable and largely curable.
Wang also said that any impact the coronavirus may have on the Chinese economy would be "temporary and short-lived."
"We are confident that China will emerge stronger from the epidemic. Its pent up consumer demand and growth potential will be quickly unleashed and China will enjoy evermore sound and sustainable economic and social development," Wang told an audience at the Munich Security Conference.
"The Chinese economy is well-positioned to overcome all risks and challenges. The fundamentals sustaining sound economic growth have not changed and will not change," he added.