WHO Declares Novel Coronavirus Outbreak A Global Health Emergency After 5 Hours 5 Minutes Deliberation

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the deadly 2019 novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak that was first reported by the Peoples Republic of China in December 2019 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

This was after an extensive meeting of the WHO Emergency Committee on Thursday 30th January 2019. The meeting lasted for 5 hours 5 minutes, from 13.30 to 18.35 local time in Geneva (CEST).

The decision to declare an outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern is the sole responsibility of the WHO Director-General after taking advice from Members of the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations of 2005.

The Thursday meeting was the second of such meetings to be conveyed on the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak in China.

It will be recalled that members of the Committee expressed different views on whether the outbreak constituted a PHEIC during the first meeting.

In China, there are currently 12,167 suspected and 7,711 confirmed cases with 124 deaths, Committee members were briefed by the representatives of the Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China during the meeting.

Confirmed cases are those already diagnosed with the 2019-nCoV and suspected cases are those who are being monitored for the likelihood of having the disease. This may be because they had contact with those who are confirmed cases or came down with symptoms but laboratory confirmation is still awaited.

So, what is next?

According to WHO, the declaration is a sign of appreciation and support for the government and people of China for their efforts and transparency. However, a global coordinated effort is required to support regions with weak health systems.

“The main reason for this declaration is not what is happening in China but what is happening in other countries,”

Statement by WHO Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during the declaration.

With the declaration, international efforts can now be concentrated on curbing the disease which already infected 7,818 globally as of January 30, 2020, including those in China, and has since spread to 18 countries, with 98 confirmed cases outside of China including 8 cases of human-to-human transmission.

Furthermore, the UN Health Agency has gone ahead to issue recommendations to China and other countries on how to stop the raging virus in line with International Health Regulations.

It is expected that with this emergency declaration, countries around the world will heed the recommendations of the Global Health Body, with the hope of bringing the novel coronavirus outbreak under control.