International News

Coronavirus ‘not yet’ a global health emergency, says WHO

BEIJING: The officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) recently confirmed that the new coronavirus was not a global health emergency just yet, though the virus has reportedly affected hundreds of people globally.

According to a China local newspaper, the briefing came after the WHO Emergency Committee spent a second day discussing the topic. However, the committee concluded that it was still too early to declare a public health emergency of international concern, given the restrictive and binary nature of the outbreak.

The committee remained divided over the decision to determine the status of the outbreak.

“I am not declaring a public health emergency of international concern today,” said WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“Make no mistake. This is an emergency in China, but it has not yet become a global health emergency. The WHO’s risk assessment is that the outbreak is a very high risk in China, and a high risk regionally and globally.”

The WHO said it would continue to review and support efforts to investigate the animal source of the new coronavirus outbreak, the extent of person-to-person transmission, and the screening efforts in other provinces of China.

According to the committee, the new virus, which was now named 2019-nCoV, could cause severe disease and could kill. It could also cause milder symptoms.  It was understood that among those infected, one-quarter of the patients have experienced the severe disease.  Most of those who have died had underlying health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease that had weakened their immune systems.

There was human-to-human transmission in China, but for now, it appears limited to family groups and health workers caring for infected patients, said the WHO officials. There was no evidence of human-to-human transmission outside China, but that might happen.

As of yet, there was little information regarding the original source of this virus, its clinical features, its severity, and how easily it spreads.

For the moment, the WHO did not recommend any broader restrictions on travel or trade but advised exit screening at airports as part of a comprehensive set of containment measures.

January 27, 2020

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