Coronavirus: WHO has declared a public health emergency

As the number of cases of novel coronavirus increases, the World Health Organization (WHO) takes stock of the situation and declares an emergency.

The vast majority of novel coronavirus cases are still confined to China.
Shanghai/China-Jan.2020: New type coronavirus

Novel coronavirus outbreaks, identified as 2019-nCoV, first appeared in the city of Wuhan, in Hubei province of China. It has spread to a number of countries since the initial Reports in December 2019.

Seven confirmed cases have now been found in the United States and, as of today, two in the United Kingdom.

Authorities in Thailand, Australia, Nepal, France and Japan have also confirmed cases of the virus. In total, 98 cases occurred in 18 countries other than China.

Eight of these cases involved human-to-human transmission; these occurred in Japan, Germany, Vietnam, and the U.S.

According to the WHO, the “vast majority” of cases arose outside China in people who either traveled from Wuhan or met someone who had made that trip.

As of Thursday, 170 people died from the virus and all deaths occurred in China.

Emergency declared

In yesterday’s briefing, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus congratulated China on the country’s swift and clear handling of this outbreak. He explained that “China is in fact setting a new standard for outbreak response in many ways.” Dr. Ghebreyesus continued,

“Thanks to their efforts, the number of cases has remained relatively small in the rest of the world so far.” WHO is confident that China is doing everything it can to contain the virus.

The primary concern of the organization is that the virus could spread to countries without good health systems which could be devastating.

For this reason, they have decided to declare a “public health emergency of international concern about the global outbreak of novel coronavirus.”

“We want you to know that the world stands with you to the people of China and all those around the world who have been affected by this outbreak. They are working diligently with national and international public health partners to get control of this epidemic as quickly as possible.”

– Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

The take-home message

There have been 7,834 reported 2019-nCoV cases to date— and 99 per cent of these occurred in China.

The WHO has rounded off its briefing with seven summary points; they are calling on:

  • implement “evidence-based and consistent” decisions
  • support other countries with less robust health systems
  • boost the development of ways to diagnose and treat the virus and vaccinate for it
  • fight against misinformation and rumors
  • review preparedness and look for gaps in resources
  • “share data, knowledge, and experience with WHO and the world”
  • work together in a spirit of accord

The final lines of the briefing, while relevant for the current outbreak, also ring true more widely:

“This is the time for facts, not fear.

This is the time for science, not rumors.

This is the time for solidarity, not stigma.”

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