WHO Declares 2019-nCoV Outbreak a Public Health Emergency

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared that the 2019-nCoV outbreak constitutes a PHEIC

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The 2nd meeting of the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General regarding the outbreak of novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV in the People’s Republic of China took place on Thursday, 30 January 2020.

This WHO Committee’s role is to give advice to the Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who makes the final decision on the determination of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). 

At its first meeting on January 23rd, the Committee expressed divergent views on whether this event constitutes a PHEIC or not.

During the meeting on January 30th, the Director-General declared that the outbreak of 2019-nCoV constitutes a PHEIC, accepted the Committee’s advice and issued this advice as Temporary Recommendations under the IHR (2005).

This is only the 6th time the WHO has declared a global health emergency.

It is expected that further international exportation of cases may appear in any country. Thus, all countries should be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of the onward spread of 2019-nCoV infection, and to share full data with WHO.

Countries are reminded that they are legally required to share information with WHO under the IHR (2005).

Countries should place particular emphasis on reducing human infection, prevention of secondary transmission and international spread, and contributing to the international response though multi-sectoral communication and collaboration and active participation in increasing knowledge on the virus and the disease, as well as advancing research.

The Committee acknowledged that, in general, evidence has shown that restricting the movement of people and goods during public health emergencies may be ineffective and may divert resources from other interventions. 

Further, restrictions may interrupt needed aid and technical support may disrupt businesses and may have negative effects on the economies of countries affected by emergencies.

However, in certain specific circumstances, measures that restrict the movement of people may prove temporarily useful, such as in settings with limited response capacities and capabilities, or where there is a high intensity of transmission among vulnerable populations.

The WHO Committee asked the Director-General to provide further advice on these matters and, if necessary, to make new case-by-case recommendations, in view of this rapidly evolving situation.

Members and advisors of the Emergency Committee were convened by teleconference.

Coronavirus news is published by Coronavirus Today.