Credit: WHO’s twitter

WHO reconvenes its Emergency Committee to re-assess Coronavirus

International public health concern status for the outbreak will be put under consideration

WHO has released the schedule today after its chief has finished his visit to China early this week.

The organisation has noted that the Emergency Committee on the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) under the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005) will be reconvened in the afternoon Geneva time (13.30) by WHO Director-General Dr.Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who cited the growing human-to-human transmission cases outside China as a justificaiton for the call.

WHO said the Committee will advise the Director-General on whether the outbreak constitutes ”a Public Health Emergency of International Concern” (PHEIC), and what recommendations should be made to manage it.

The Director-General’s decision, following the Committee’s advice, will be then disseminated along with the recommendations worldwide via channels avaiable includig the organisation’s website.

Dr Tedros went to China on Monday and met President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China and other top officials in Beijing yesterday. 

“The trip is to try to understand the latest developments and strengthen partnerships in order to boost the overall response against the new respiratory disease” the UN News had reported.

According to WHO, they shared the latest information on the novel coronavirus 2019 (2019-nCoV) outbreak and reiterated their commitment to bring it under control.

The discussions focused on continued collaboration on containment measures in Wuhan, public health measures in other cities and provinces, conducting further studies on the severity and transmissibility of the virus, continuing to share data, and for China to share biological material with WHO. 

These measures will advance scientific understanding of the virus and contribute to the development of medical countermeasures such as vaccines and treatments.

The organisation said the two sides agreed that WHO will send international experts to visit China as soon as possible to work with Chinese counterparts on increasing understanding of the outbreak to guide global response efforts.

“Stopping the spread of this virus both in China and globally is WHO’s highest priority,” said Dr. Tedros, conveying his appreciation to the counterpart, saying; “We appreciate the seriousness with which China is taking this outbreak, especially the commitment from top leadership, and the transparency they have demonstrated, including sharing data and genetic sequence of the virus.”

WHO said much remains to be understood about 2019-nCoV as the source of the outbreak and the extent to which it has spread in China are not yet known. 

While the current understanding of the disease remains limited, most cases reported to date have been milder, with around 20% of those infected experiencing severe illness. 

Both WHO and China noted that the number of cases being reported, including those outside China, is deeply concerning. Better understanding of the transmissibility and severity of the virus is urgently required to guide other countries on appropriate response measures, WHO said.

Previously, WHO declared after the EC’s first two-day convention last Thursday that the respiratory disease Novel Coronavirus, was not yet an official international public health emergency, Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), but warned that was an emergency in China.

The disease had by that time spread rapidly to several countries including Japan, Singapore and the USA, and Dr. Tedros had said that the outbreak posed a “very high risk” in China, as well as regionally and globally.

He reiterated that again last night and offered public apology for the error in the WHO’s situation report that addressed the global assessment as”moderate”.

According to WHO’s situation report by Jan 29, there have been 6,065 confirmed cases of the disease globally, 5,997 of which were in China. 68 cases have been reported in 15 other countries, with a death toll rising to 132 in China.

Thailand, meanwhile, has reported cases at 14, with six discharged from hospital already. The medical practitioners nationwide have been called to attend the workshop by the Public Health Ministry to equip themselves in preparation for the possible outbreak.

The country’s medical emegency response has now placed at level 3, where the transmission is limited within a province. The fifth level is where the transmission is nationwide.