By Cecilia Ologunagba
World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday declared coronavirus as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
WHO Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the decision was based on the recommendations of the Emergency Committee on the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) under the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005).
In a statement issued from Geneva, the Director General explained the reason why the committee took the decision.
“The main reason for this declaration is not what is happening in China but what is happening in other countries.
“The concern is that it could spread to countries with weaker health systems.
“The death toll now stands at 170 people in China,’’ he said.
According to WHO, there have been 98 cases in 18 countries outside of the country but no deaths.
In addition, the statement stated that the Committee agreed that the outbreak met the criteria for a PHEIC and proposed the following advice to be issued as Temporary Recommendations.
“The Committee emphasised that the declaration of a PHEIC should be seen in the spirit of support and appreciation for China and its people.
“It should also been seen in 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,’’ it said.
According to the statement, the Committee 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.’’
Novel coronavirus was first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has been reported in 18 other countries. (NAN)