Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization, has called on the world to deal with misinformation, "stigma and hate" generated by the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak, and called on governments to increase funding and preparedness for the epidemic.
The emergency situation in China due to what is officially called COVID-19 remains, Ghebreyesus said at the Munich Security Conference in Germany on Saturday.
"We are encouraged that the steps China has taken to contain the COVID-19 outbreak at its source appear to have bought the world time, even though those steps have come at great cost to China itself.
"Let me be clear: it is impossible to predict which direction this COVID-19 outbreak will take. What I can tell you is what encourages us and what concerns us."
Ghebreyesus said the WHO is concerned by the continued increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in China, as well as recent reports from China about the number of infections and deaths among health workers. The world has failed to raise sufficient funds to combat the outbreak, he said.
"We're concerned by the lack of urgency in funding the COVID-19 response. We're concerned about the severe disruption in the market for personal protective equipment, which is putting front-line health workers and carers at risk."
Ghebreyesus condemned the cycle of "panic and neglect" that the world finds itself in during and between outbreaks. "We throw money at an outbreak, and when it's over, we forget about it and do nothing to prevent the next one," he said.
The world spends billions of dollars preparing for a terrorist attack, but relatively little preparing for an attack that could be far more deadly and far more damaging economically, politically and socially, he said.
"This is frankly difficult to understand and dangerously shortsighted."
Ghebreyesus criticized those who use epidemics to push political agendas, and he warned against prejudice.
"The greatest enemy we face is not the coronavirus itself－it is the stigma that turns us against each other. We must stop stigma and hate. Too much has been written and said about my praise for China. I have given credit where it's due, and I will continue to do that, as I would for any country that fights an outbreak aggressively at its source to protect its own people and the world, even at great cost to itself."
He added: "It's easy to blame. It's easy to politicize. It's harder to tackle a problem together, and find solutions together. We will all learn lessons from this COVID-19 outbreak. But now is not the time for recriminations or politicization."
Ghebreyesus said the WHO is worried about the level of misinformation online regarding the virus, and confirmed that the organization has been working with technology companies including Facebook, You-Tube, Google, Tencent and Tik Tok to ensure that credible health information and advice is promoted.
He also called on governments to improve coordination in preparing and responding to epidemics.
"It is not a job for the health minister alone. It takes a whole-of-government approach."