Lifestyle & Belief

WHO urges coronavirus information be shared among countries


A Qatari man was confirmed as having the SARS-like coronavirus, which health officials worry will spread globally.



The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged countries with possible cases of novel coronavirus to share information.

The announcement came after Saudi Arabia, where the first case of the SARS-like disease occurred, said the development of diagnostic tests had been delayed by a foreign laboratory's patent rights on coronavirus.

"Making deals between scientists because they want to take IP (intellectual property), because they want to be the world's first to publish in scientific journals, these are issues we need to address," WHO Director General Margaret Chan told health ministers attending the WHO's annual conference in Geneva.

"No IP will stand in the way of public health actions."

Saudi Arabia not only had the first case of coronavirus, but is also where the most cases have arisen since the disease emerged.

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The country's health minister, Ziad Memish, raised his concerns at the Geneva conference as well.

"We are still struggling with diagnostics and the reason is that the virus was patented by scientists and is not allowed to be used for investigations by other scientists," he said.

"I think strongly that the delay in the development of ... diagnostic procedures is related to the patenting of the virus."

The virus was identified in September of last year, three months after a scientist took a sample from Saudi Arabia to the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands.

"There was a lag of three months where we were not aware of the discovery of the virus," Memish said.

He also noted that the virus was taken out of Saudi Arabia without permission and the country only learned of its discovery from ProMED, a US internet-based reporting system.