WHO DECLARES CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK A GLOBAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
JAN 31, 2020 @ 12.10PM
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared that the coronavirus outbreak now meets the criteria for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
The decision was made on January 30 – at its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
This is the sixth time such an emergency has been declared, with past examples including the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Zika virus.
During the meeting, representatives of the Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China reported that 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 then confirmed that to date, there are 83 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 Wuhan and outside China. One of these cases is severe and there have been no deaths.
Earlier during its first meeting, the committee expressed divergent views on whether this event constitutes a PHEIC or not. At that time, the advice was that the event did not constitute a PHEIC.
Prepare for containment
It is expected that further international exportation of cases may appear in any country. WHO therefore advised all countries to be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of onward spread of 2019-nCoVinfection, and to share full data with WHO.
Any detection of 2019-nCoV in an animal (including information about the species, diagnostic tests, and relevant epidemiological information) should be reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) as an emerging disease.
Measures that interfere with international traffic
As this is a new coronavirus, and it has been previously shown that similar coronaviruses required substantial efforts to enable regular information sharing and research, the committee emphasised that the global community should continue to demonstrate solidarity and cooperation, in compliance with Article 44 of the IHR (2005), in supporting each other on the identification of the source of this new virus, its full potential for human-to-human transmission, preparedness for potential importation of cases, and research for developing necessary treatment.
Under Article 43 of the IHR, States Parties implementing additional health measures that significantly interfere with international traffic (refusal of entry or departure of international travellers, baggage, cargo, containers, conveyances, goods, and the like, or their delay, for more than 24 hours) are obliged to send to WHO the public health rationale and justification within 48 hours of their implementation. WHO will review the justification and may request countries to reconsider their measures. WHO is required to share with other States Parties the information about measures and the justification received.
Meanwhile, Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon pointed out that Malaysia had already
implemented the necessary measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) prior to WHO's announcement.
"The ministry, however, will continue to review the need for additional measures daily
depending on surrounding development on the epidemic," he added.
The Prime Minister’s Office on Monday announced that all visa facilities for Chinese tourists from Hubei province had been suspended. This includes electronic travel registration and information facilities, visa-free entry, visa on arrival, e-visa and manual visa applications.
It said that the decision was made due to the spike in coronavirus infections and deaths.
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