The World Health Organization declared on Thursday that the new coronavirus outbreak was a global health emergency, acknowledging that the disease represents a risk outside of China, where it emerged last month.
The declaration — officially called a Public Health Emergency of International Concern — serves notice to all United Nations member states that the world’s top health advisory body rates the situation as serious. This declaration hopes to increase coordination between nations to fight the epidemic .
Countries can then decide whether to close their borders, cancel flights, screen people arriving at airports or take other measures.
The decision came as cases have begun to appear in people who had not travelled to China during the outbreak.
“Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems,” World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said as he announced the virus as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
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Reacting to the announcement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying in a press statement said, “Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus epidemic, the Chinese government has been taking the most comprehensive and rigorous prevention and control measures with a high sense of responsibility for people’s health.”
Many of these measures go well beyond the requirements of the International Health Regulations, she said.
“We have full confidence and capability to win this fight against the epidemic,” said the spokesperson.
She said that at the same time, the Chinese side informed relevant sides and shared the genome sequence of the coronavirus in a timely manner with openness, transparency and a responsible attitude.
“WHO and many countries have recognised and commended this,” she said.
Hua said China has been in close communication and cooperation with WHO.
“WHO experts recently conducted a field trip to Wuhan. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also visited China and discussed containment and mitigation of the 2019-nCoV with the Chinese side,” she said.
Noting that Tedros commended China’s efforts and spoke highly of China’s great contribution to the world by fighting against the novel coronavirus, Hua said the country will continue working with WHO and other countries to safeguard regional and global public health security, Xinhua quoted her statement.
Sources – NYTimes, PTI