WHO declares coronavirus global health emergency

Beijing, Jan 31, 2020-

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the novel coronavirus outbreak, that has killed 213 people and infected nearly 10,000 others in China alone, as a global health emergency since the virus was spreading globally at an alarming rate.

As 98 confirmed cases were also reported from 18 countries, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the WHO, told the media on Thursday night: “I am declaring a public health emergency of international concern over the global outbreak of 2019nCoV, not because of what is happening in China, but because of what is happening in other countries.

“In many ways, China is actually setting a new standard for outbreak response. Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems, and which are ill-prepared to deal with it.

“We must remember that these are people, not numbers. More important than the declaration of a public health emergency are the committee’s recommendations for preventing the spread of the 2019nCoV virus and ensuring a measured and evidence-based response.”

Ghebreyesus’s declaration came after a group of 15 experts announced the global alert almost a week after its first declaration when the WHO assured that the outbreak had not reached the status of a global epidemic.

This is the sixth time the WHO has declared a public-health emergency of international concern after it did so during the outbreaks of H1N1 in 2009; the Ebola virus in West Africa in 2014 and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2019; polio in 2014; and the Zika virus in 2016.

The nearly 10,000 confirmed cases in China are almost double those of the severe acute respiratory syndrome, SARS during the outbreak between November 2002 and August 2003 (5,327 cases).

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Besides the death toll and the number of confirmed cases, China’s National Health Commission announced on Friday that 1,527 patients remained in critical conditions, and 15,238 people were suspected of being infected with the virus, Xinhua news agency reported.

A total of 171 people had been discharged from hospital after recovery.

A total of 113,579 close contacts had been traced, the Commission said, adding that among them, 4,201 were discharged on Thursday, with 102,427 others still under observation.

The Chinese government also announced that it would send charter plans to bring back the residents of Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, who are overseas “as soon as possible”, said a BBC report.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said this was because of the “practical difficulties” Chinese citizens have faced abroad.

Outside of China, Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan, other countries with confirmed cases include Thailand, Japan, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, South Korea, the US, France, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Italy, Vietnam, Cambodia, Finland, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

However, there were no deaths reported outside of China.  (Agency)