World, Health

WHO says early to declare China virus global emergency

Committee decides not to to declare deadly new virus a public emergency of international concern

Peter Kenny   | 23.01.2020
WHO says early to declare China virus global emergency

GENEVA

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday that now is not the time to declare a new virus that emerged in China a global health emergency.

Addressing a press conference after the committee meeting in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the emergency committee on the novel coronavirus met, and there was again a "split" over the decision as on the previous day.

"Make no mistake this is an emergency in China, but it has not yet become a global emergency. It may become one," Tedros said.

A total of 584 cases were reported to WHO, including 17 deaths, said the chief.

China was taking action to limit the spread of the virus, he said, and the WHO committee would be ready to reconvene depending on the situation.

Countries where people have been affected by the virus are Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, the U.S., and Vietnam, according to the global organization.

"We don't know the sources of the virus and don't fully understand its clinical severity," said Tedros.

The coronavirus, also known as 2019-nCoV and which causes pneumonia-like symptoms, was identified in December in Wuhan, a central city of China, which has a population of 11 million.

Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough and trouble breathing.

Authorities in Wuhan Thursday banned the use of public transport bid to combat the fatal coronavirus.

Huanggang, a city east of Wuhan, also shut down bus and rail services and encouraged people not to leave the city.

On Jan. 23, representatives of China's Health Ministry and officials from Japan, Thailand and South Korea updated the committee on the situation in their countries, said the WHO.

"On Jan. 22, the members of the Emergency Committee expressed divergent views on whether this event constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) or not,” it added.

At that time, the advice was that the event did not constitute a PHEIC, but the WHO said that committee members agreed on the urgency of the situation.

They "suggested that the committee should be reconvened in a matter of days to examine the situation further," said the WHO.

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