The UK’s Secretary for International Development, Alok Sharma, announced £5 million in funding from the aid budget on Saturday — with more than 40,000 people now reportedly infected in China, and an additional 319 cases worldwide.
It’s essential that patients are detected and isolated to tackle the spread of the disease, so that they don’t spread the virus to other people.
But many developing countries don’t yet have the tools, expertise, and health infrastructure to diagnose and treat patients, according to the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID).
The new UK aid funding will work to support such countries to rapidly identify and care for patients with symptoms.
“Diseases are global threats and to save lives around the world we need a fully coordinated International response,” said Sharma, making the announcement.
“By supporting developing countries with fragile health systems to properly respond to suspected cases of coronavirus, UK aid can help prevent the spread of the outbreak,” he added.
The funding is going to the World Health Organisation (WHO), to support its Flash Appeal. The appeal is aiming to train rapid response teams and medical staff to identify and respond to symptoms, as well as raising awareness of how to avoid coronavirus in developing countries.
On top of this, additional experts funded by UK aid will be deployed to the WHO to help coordinate the international response.
It’s a great example of how overseas aid can work around the world to make it a safer place for everyone. As highlighted by WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a global effort is needed in response to outbreaks like coronavirus that don’t respect borders.
“It could be the spark that becomes a bigger fire,” he said. “But for now it is only a spark. Our objective remains containment.”
According to reports on Tuesday, there are now eight cases of coronavirus in the UK — including two health workers. Public Health England has confirmed that five of the cases related to a “super spreader” — a man who caught the virus in Singapore, before travelling to France, and then returning to the UK.
The new UK aid announcement follows a pledge from the government last week of £20 million to support the development of new vaccines to help combat the world's deadliest diseases.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the funding would ramp up Britain's efforts to fund ground-breaking research into vaccines, diagnostics, and cures to fight the threat of future viruses.