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The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it will send a team of international experts to China as soon as possible to assess the novel coronavirus outbreak situation and guide the global counter-epidemic efforts.

As of Wednesday, 132 people in China have died due to the coronavirus, with 5,974 confirmed cases.

The WHO announcement came after Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus met the Chinese leaders in Beijing earlier on Tuesday, reports Xinhua news agency.

The two sides agreed that the WHO will send international experts to China to work with its Chinese counterparts to enhance understanding of the epidemic and guide the global counter-epidemic efforts, the WHO said in a statement.

“Stopping the spread of this virus both in China and globally is WHO’s the highest priority,” said Tedros, appreciating China’s serious attitude towards the epidemic, especially the commitment from top leaders and the transparency demonstrated, including sharing data and genetic sequence of the virus.

The WHO is working closely with the Chinese government to take measures to understand the virus and limit its spread, he said, adding that the organization will continue to work side-by-side with China and other countries to protect people’s health and safety.

Though much remains to be understood about the novel coronavirus, including its source of infection and spreading extent in China, most cases reported so far have been relatively mild, with around 20 per cent of the infected people experiencing severe illness, the WHO said.

There is an urgent need to better understand the transmissibility and severity of the virus to guide other countries to take appropriate counter-measures, it added.

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