January 31, 2020.
THE World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the China coronavirus outbreak that has killed 170 people in China a global emergency as cases spread to 18 countries.
As the United States reported its first case of person-to-person transmission, experts say such a transmission, which has also been detected in Germany, Vietnam and Japan, is especially concerning because they suggest greater potential for the virus to spread further.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, told a news conference in Geneva Thursday that recent weeks have witnessed an unprecedented outbreak which has been met by an unprecedented response.
The WHO decision could lead to improved international coordination in tackling the disease.
“Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems….. this is not a vote of no confidence in China,” said Ghebreyesus at the news conference.
But WHO said there was no reason to restrict travel or trade with China over the deadly outbreak, after several airlines announced they were suspending flights.
“WHO does not recommend and actually opposes any restrictions on travel and trade,” Ghebreyesus said.
The declaration of a global emergency triggers recommendations to all countries aimed at preventing or reducing cross-border spread of disease.
The vast majority of the more than 7,800 cases detected globally, according to the latest WHO data, have been in China, where the virus originated in an illegal wildlife market in Wuhan.
But nearly 100 cases have emerged in other countries, leading to cuts to travel, outbreaks of anti-China sentiment in some places and a surge in demand for protective face masks.