The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially declared the new coronavirus that has made its appearance in China into a public health emergency of international importance.
Dr. WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the announcement after the WHO’s emergency committee met again on Thursday.
Representatives from China’s health authorities provided feedback to the committee and measures taken to try to limit the outbreak. There are now more than 9,600 confirmed cases in China and more than 10,000 possible cases. More than 1,000 cases are serious and the death toll has risen to 213.
According to the WHO, 83 cases have already been reported in 18 countries. In only seven of those cases did the persons not travel to China. It was transmitted from person to person in only three countries outside China, according to the WHO.
The WHO welcomed the Chinese government’s leadership and political commitment at the highest level. According to the committee, they are committed to transparency and efforts have been made to investigate and combat the current outbreak.
“China quickly identified the virus and shared its findings, allowing other countries to quickly diagnose and protect themselves, which led to the rapid development of diagnostic tools,” Ghebreyesus said.
The WHO, meanwhile, is also of the opinion that it is still possible to restrict the spread of the virus provided other countries take strict measures to identify, isolate, treat and treat cases of contact early.
According to Ghebreyesus, it is important to note that as the situation continues to evolve, the strategic goals and measures to prevent and reduce the spread of the infection will continue to evolve.
The committee agreed that the outbreak now meets the criteria for a public health emergency of international importance.
However, the committee stressed that the statement of a state of emergency should be seen in the spirit of support and appreciation of China, its people, and the country’s actions regarding the outbreak.
The Committee believes that a globally coordinated effort is needed to promote preparedness in other regions of the world that need additional support.
The WHO has declared a public health emergency of international importance five times in the recent past, namely the Ebola outbreak in the DRC in 2019, the Zika virus in 2016, Ebola in West Africa and polio in 2014 and the H1N1 virus in 2009.
South Africa’s Minister of Health, Dr. Zweli Mkhize, meanwhile, will address the media on the latest developments on Friday morning.