Health

WHO’s emergency panel to reconvene on coronavirus

World Health Organization Emergency Committee to reconvene Thursday to discuss threat of coronavirus

Peter Kenny   | 29.01.2020
WHO’s emergency panel to reconvene on coronavirus

GENEVA

A World Health Organization’s (WHO) emergency panel will reconvene on Thursday to discuss the threat of the deadly coronavirus that emerged in China’s Wuhan city last month, the organization said on Wednesday.

The announcement came following the return of WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus from China.

Tedros said the death toll in China from the novel coronavirus outbreak has climbed to 132, while some 6,062 cases of the disease -- including 5,997 in China -- have been confirmed globally.

“WHO is monitoring this disease, every moment of every day,” he said at a news conference, adding: “There is the potential for a much larger outbreak.”

The WHO head said that he was “very impressed” with China’s response to the outbreak.

He said the source of the disease is still unclear and he was reconvening the Emergency Committee of the WHO to assess the situation.

“The progress of the spread of the disease in some countries worries us,” Tedros added.

The Emergency Committee will advise Tedros on whether the outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and that what recommendations should be made to manage it.

The UN health agency said the meeting is planned to start at 01.30 p.m. local time (1230GMT) and a news conference is tentatively scheduled for 07.30 p.m. local time (1830GMT).

“The challenge is great, but the response is massive. Of course, we are concerned and we have a major disease and we don't have an antidote,” Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO executive director of the Emergencies Program, said at a news conference.

He said 71 cases have been reported in 51 countries apart from China and the outbreak has prompted many countries to take action.

Meanwhile, the government of Taiwan released a statement in Geneva, stating it had “set up the Central Epidemic Control Center (CECC) and has been providing information to WHO”.

“We regret that WHO in its Situation Reports continues to list cases confirmed in Taiwan in a misleading and confusing way, as Taiwan and China have different health systems and disease control operations,” it said, noting the first case was confirmed in Taiwan on Jan. 21.

Cities have been quarantined in China, and the country is building a 1,000-bed hospital for those who have contracted the virus.

Dozens of cases have also been reported in Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Thailand, the U.S., Singapore, France, Germany, Malaysia, Australia and Vietnam. 

Travelers from China are being screened for the virus at airports worldwide, and many airlines have suspended flights to Wuhan.

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