WHO’s twitter

Novel Coronavirus now global public health emergency: WHO

Any travel or trade restriction is not recommended, but global solidarity and cooperation in supporting each other, especially for low and middle income countries, said the global health agency.

The World Health Organisation has declared the novel Coronavirus broken out of Wuhan in China “a global public health emergency” after its Emergency Committee reassessing the situation for the second time through yesterday afternoon( Geneva time) and learning about the growing human-to-human transmission cases outside China.

The Committee agreed that the outbreak now meets the criteria for “a Public Health Emergency of International Concern” and proposed temporary recommendations to be issued for global community, countries, and China.

“The number of cases in the rest of the world has so far remained relatively small. There are now new 98 cases in countries outside China, including 8 cases of human to human transmission in four countries.  So far, we have not seen any deaths outside China, for which we must all be grateful.

“Although these numbers are still relatively smaill compared to the number of cases in China, we must all act together now to limit further spread. We didn’t know what sort of damage the virus could do if spreading to the countries with the weaker health systems. We must act now to help countries prepare for that possibility.

“For all of these resons I’m declaring the public health emergency of international concern over the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus. The main reason for this declaration is not what is happening in China, but because of what is happening in other countries.

“Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems, which are ill prepared to deal with it. Let me be clear, the decision is not a vote of no confidence in China. On the contrary, WHO continues to have a confidence in China’s capacity to control the outbreak (repeated)”, declared WHO Director-General Dr.Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during the Live press conference after the meeting last night.

The Committee also emphasized in the statement released after the meeting that the declaration of a PHEIC should be seen in the spirit of support and appreciation for China, its people, and the actions China has taken on the frontlines of this outbreak, with transparency, and it is to be hoped, with success. 

In line with the need for global solidarity, the Committee felt that a global coordinated effort is needed to enhance preparedness in other regions of the world that may need additional support for that. 

WHO Director General Dr.Tedros along with his senior staff during the Live press conference in Geneva last night./ WHO’s twitter

What is next?

The declaration is seen to give more power to WHO to synergise global efforts to fight with the  virus, but first and foremost the Committee did not recommend any travel or trade restriction based on the current information available. 

According to WHO, Under Article 43 of the IHR, States Parties implementing additional health measures that significantly interfere with international traffic (refusal of entry or departure of international travellers, baggage, cargo, containers, conveyances, goods, and the like, or their delay, for more than 24 hours) are obliged to send to WHO the public health rationale and justification within 48 hours of their implementation. 

WHO will review the justification and may request countries to reconsider their measures. WHO is required to share with other States Parties the information about measures and the justification received.  

Having declared that the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus constitutes a PHEIC, WHO Director General accepted the Committee’s advice and issued it as the set of temporary recommendations under the International Health Regulations, in addition.

The multidisciplinary technical mission will be sent to China, including national and local experts, to review and support efforts to investigate “the animal source” of the outbreak, the clinical spectrum of the disease and its severity, the extent of human-to-human transmission in the community and in healthcare facilities, and efforts to control the outbreak, WHO said.

For global community, the organisation recommends it to continue to demonstrate solidarity and cooperation in supporting each other on the identification of the source of this new virus, its full potential for human-to-human transmission, preparedness for potential importation of cases, and research for developing necessary treatment.

It should provide support to low- and middle-income countries to enable their response to this event, as well as to facilitate access to diagnostics, potential vaccines and therapeutics, WHO said.

As for countries, they should be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of onward spread of the virus, and to share full data with WHO. 

Any detection of the virus in an animal should be reported to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) as an emerging disease, WHO said.

And for China, the global health agency recommends it to continue to implement a comprehensive risk communication strategy to regularly inform the population on the evolution of the outbreak, the prevention and protection measures for the population, and the response measures taken for its containment.  

It should also continue to collaborate with WHO and partners to conduct investigations to understand the epidemiology and the evolution of this outbreak and measures to contain it and share relevant data on human cases.

According to WHO’s latest situation report, by Jan 30, there have been 7,818 confirmed cases of the disease globally, 7,736 of which were in China. 82 cases have been reported in 18 other countries, with a death toll rising to 170 in China.