Geneva: The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday called for $675 million in donations for a plan to fight the novel coronavirus, mainly through investment in countries considered particularly "at risk".
"Today we're launching a strategic preparedness and response plan.... We're requesting $675 million to fund the plan for the next three months," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news conference in Geneva.
"Our message to the international community is invest today or pay more later," Tedros said, adding that the funding appeal was "much less than the bill we will have to pay if we do not invest in preparedness.
Tedros said $60 million of the funds would be for WHO operations while the remainder would go to countries requiring assistance to guard against the deadly virus. He said WHO was sending 500,000 masks and 40,000 respirators to 24 countries from its warehouses in Dubai and Accra.
Tedros also hailed a $100 million donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced earlier on Wednesday for virus testing, treatment and vaccine research.
Asked about Britain's call for its nationals to leave China, Tedros said, "That blanket approach may not help. We encourage all countries to make decisions based on evidence." He said an international expert mission being organised by WHO would be leaving for China "very, very soon".
According to the latest figures, the outbreak that began in China has infected more than 24,500 people globally. China has recorded 490 deaths and 24,324 confirmed cases on the mainland. In addition, Hong Kong has had 17 cases, including one death. The Philippines has also reported a death.