WHO declares coronavirus outbreak public health emergency

GENEVA: The World Health Organization on Thursday declared the outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus (2019 nCoV) a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” (PHEIC).

The declaration came following the second meeting of the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005) Emergency Committee regarding the outbreak of deadly virus in China and other countries.

The meeting was convened from 13:30 to 18:35 Geneva time (CEST) by the WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who welcomed the Committee and turned the meeting over to the Chair, Professor Didier Houssin. The Committee welcomed the leadership and political commitment of the very highest levels of Chinese government authorities, their commitment to transparency, and the efforts made to investigate and contain the current outbreak. China quickly identified the virus and shared its sequence, so that other countries could diagnose it quickly and protect themselves, which has resulted in the rapid development of diagnostic tools, according to a post event statement by WHO. The very strong measures the country has taken include daily contact with WHO and comprehensive multi sectoral approaches to prevent further spread. It has also taken public health measures in other cities and provinces; is conducting studies on the severity and transmissibility of the virus and sharing data and biological material. The Committee acknowledged the leading role of WHO and its partners, the statement pointed out. The Committee also acknowledged that there are still many unknowns, cases have now been reported in five WHO regions in one month, and human to human transmission has occurred outside Wuhan and outside China. The Committee believes that it is still possible to interrupt virus spread, provided that countries put in place strong measures to detect disease early, isolate and treat cases, trace contacts, and promote social distancing measures commensurate with the risk.

It is important to note that as the situation continues to evolve, so will the strategic goals and measures to prevent and reduce spread of the infection. The Committee agreed that the outbreak now meets the criteria for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and proposed the following advice to be issued as Temporary Recommendations. The Committee emphasized 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, the statement added.

Source: Kuwait News Agency