WHO declares Public Health Emergency on novel coronavirus

Concerned individuals

Washington, Jan. 30, 2020 (PAHO)—The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, today declared that the outbreak of 2019-nCoV novel coronavirus constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). In China, more than 7700 cases have been confirmed, and 170 people have died. There are 82 additional cases confirmed in 18 countries.

Dr. Tedros, acting on the advice of an Emergency Committee of experts chaired by Professor Didier Houssin, called on the global community “to provide support to low- and middle-income countries to enable their response to this event, as well as to facilitate access to diagnostics, potential vaccines & therapeutics."

He noted, “It is expected that further international exportation of cases may appear in any country. Thus, all countries should be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of onward spread of 2019-nCoV infection, and to share full data with WHO.”

“Countries should place particular emphasis on reducing human infection, prevention of secondary transmission and international spread, and contributing to the international response though multi-sectoral communication and collaboration and active participation in increasing knowledge on the virus and the disease, as well as advancing research,” he said.

The committee heard from Representatives of the Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China on the current situation and the public health measures being taken. There are now 7711 confirmed and 12167 suspected cases throughout the country. Of the confirmed cases, 1370 are severe and 170 people have died. 124 people have recovered and been discharged from hospital.

The WHO Secretariat provided an overview of the situation in other countries. There are now 82 cases in 18 countries. Of these, only 7 had no history of travel in China. There has been human-to-human transmission in 3 countries outside China. One of these cases is severe and there have been no deaths.

Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, Assistant Director of the Pan American Health Organization, said “The declaration means that the alert level is still very high. The Organization, in its risk assessment, had already indicated that there was a very high risk to China, to countries bordering China, and a high risk to all countries in the world. What is changing now is that this decree can mobilize more international resources to act in China with the Chinese government to interrupt the transmission where it is occurring.”