WHO declares China virus outbreak an international emergency

Posted on January 31, 2020


GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Health Organization declared on Thursday that the coronavirus epidemic in China now constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, announced the decision after a meeting of its Emergency Committee, an independent panel of experts, amid mounting evidence of the virus spreading to some 18 countries.

Tedros told a news conference in Geneva that recent weeks have witnessed an unprecedented outbreak which has been met by an unprecedented response.

“Let me be clear, this declaration is not a vote of no confidence in China,” he said.

“Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems,” he added.

The WHO panel, chaired by Didier Houssin of France, is composed of 16 independent experts.

Twice last week the experts had decided not to declare an emergency while they sought more information from China and awaited evidence of confirmed person-to-person spread of the virus in other countries.

The declaration of a global emergency triggers recommendations to all countries aimed at preventing or reducing cross-border spread of disease, while avoiding unnecessary interference with trade and travel.

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