Coronavirus outbreak is an international emergency
A policeman wearing a mask walks past a quarantine notice about the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan, China - Photo: Kim Kyung-Hoon/REUTERS

Coronavirus outbreak is an international emergency

30/01/2020
14:00
Reuters
Geneva
-A +A
The outbreak is linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, but some patients diagnosed with the new coronavirus deny exposure to this market

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The World Health Organization declared on January 30 that the coronavirus epidemic in China constituted a public health emergency of international concern.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, announced the decision after a meeting of its Emergency Committee, an independent panel of experts, amid mounting evidence of the virus spread to some 18 countries.

Tedros told a news conference in Geneva that recent weeks have witnessed an unprecedented outbreak which has been met by an unprecedented response.

The WHO panel, chaired by Didier Houssin of France, is composed of 16 independent experts.

The experts had decided twice not to declare an emergency while they sought more information from China and awaited evidence of confirmed person-to-person spread of the virus in other countries, so as to meet their criteria for a global emergency.

The declaration of a global emergency triggers recommendations to all countries aimed at preventing or reducing cross-border spread of disease, while avoiding unnecessary interference with trade and travel.

 It covers temporary recommendations for national health authorities worldwide, which include stepping up their monitoring, preparedness, and containment measures.

Although the WHO has no legal authority to sanction countries, it could ask governments to provide scientific justification for any travel or trade restrictions that they impose in the event of an international emergency.

The outbreak is linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, but some patients diagnosed with the new coronavirus deny exposure to this market. The WHO said an animal source appears most likely to be the primary source of the outbreak and that some limited human-to-human transmission is occurring.

The new coronavirus discovered in China should not be the SARS of 2020

The coronavirus outbreak in China may be over by April, the country’s senior medical adviser said on Tuesday, but deaths surpassed 1,000 and the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of a global threat potentially worse than terrorism.

The first vaccine targeting China’s coronavirus could be available in 18 months, “so we have to do everything today using available weapons”, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

He said the virus had been named COVID-19, explaining that it was important to avoid stigma and that other names could be inaccurate.

The World Health Organization asked countries to be “as aggressive as possible” in fighting the newly named COVID-19 coronavirus.

The World Health Organization no longer has a process for declaring a pandemic, but the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak remains an international emergency, a spokesman said on February 24.

“There is no official category (for a pandemic),” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said.

The coronavirus outbreak can still be beaten, the WHO said,  insisting it was premature to declare it a pandemic even though it had the potential to reach that level.

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