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Geneva/Kuala Lumpur, 31 January 2020 – As the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) continues spreading beyond China, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is scaling up preparedness efforts to support people who are most vulnerable to the outbreak in Asia Pacific and beyond.

Dr Emanuele Capobianco IFRC’s Director for Health and Care said:

“The threat of a coronavirus pandemic is real and cannot be underestimated.  We are working with Red Cross Red Crescent Societies around the world to prepare and respond globally as the outbreak evolves. National Societies globally are trusted partners with long experience in preparing for and responding to diseases. With 13 million volunteers, we can play an important role in national and international response efforts against this novel coronavirus.”

IFRC has released its maximum amount of one million Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund for an initial surge of specialists to be deployed and prepositioned for National Societies in countries which are most vulnerable to the virus’ spread, with a current focus in Asia Pacific. In addition, IFRC is launching a global emergency appeal for three million Swiss francs to support National Societies to deliver assistance and provide risk communication, community engagement and services provision to affected communities.

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Xavier Castellanos, IFRC’s Regional Director for the Asia Pacific said:
“As the situation evolves, our top priority is to mobilize National Society volunteers to engage communities on measures to prevent further transmission of the virus and to reduce rumours and panic. In disease outbreaks, information is power and helps people protect themselves and their loved ones. Where needed, Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers will also provide psychosocial support to affected communities with special attention on older and marginalized groups, families and health personnel.”

In China and across Asia Pacific, National Red Cross Societies are engaging people and communities – online and offline – in helping prevent misinformation and reduce fear and improving hygiene by promoting effective measures such as handwashing. Across some parts of China, the Red Cross Society of China staff and volunteers are carrying out health education and promotion, checking the temperature of members of the public, and responding to emergency callouts to people with fever.