|People wearing face masks are seen at a subway station in the morning after the extended Chinese New Year holiday caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak, in Shanghai, China Feb 10, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Aly Song)|
"We now have a name for the disease and it's COVID-19," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva, explaining that "co" stood for "corona", "vi" for "virus" and "d" for "disease".
The organisation said it had to find a name "that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people" and one that is also pronounceable and related to the disease, under agreed guidelines between the WHO and other intergovernmental organisations.
The WHO had earlier given the virus the temporary name of 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease and China's National Health Commission this week said it was temporarily calling it novel coronavirus pneumonia.
Speaking on the first day of an international scientific conference in Geneva that will look at possible vaccine options to combat the virus, Dr Tedros also said he saw a "realistic chance" of stopping the outbreak.
"If we invest now ... we have a realistic chance of stopping this outbreak," said Dr Tedros.
"We are not defenceless," he said.
"We have to use the current window of opportunity to hit hard and stand in unison to fight this virus in every corner. If we don't we could have far more cases and far higher costs on our hands," he said.
The first vaccine targeting the coronavirus could be available in 18 months, "so we have to do everything today using available weapons", he added.
The virus, which started in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has since spread to more than 20 countries.
More than 1,000 people have died and more than 43,000 people have been infected, the vast majority in China./.