The UN health agency declared an international emergency over the deadly novel coronavirus from China, a rarely used designation that could lead to improved international coordination in tackling the disease.
In a press conference, the World Health Organization (WHO) Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated “Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems,” as he declared a public health emergency of international concern on Thursday January 30, 2020 in Geneva.
While on a trip to China earlier this week, the WHO Chief, Tedros, met with President Xi Jinping and urged all to act together in order to limit further spread as we can only stop it together.
Tedros also said there was no reason for any of the international travel or trade restrictions announced in recent days, such as flight suspensions, border closures and quarantine for apparently healthy travellers as top airlines have suspended services to China.
The WHO’s Emergency Committee, an advisory body of international experts, said in a statement that further restrictions may interrupt needed aid and technical support, disrupts businesses, and may have negative effects on the economies of countries affected by the emergencies. Evidence had shown that restricting movement of people and goods during public health emergencies may be ineffective and may divert resources from other interventions the committee said.
More than 7,700 people have been infected with the virus, almost all of them in China and 170 have died.
The WHO said there have also been 82 confirmed cases in 18 other countries, including cases of onward transmission in Germany, Japan, the United States and Vietnam.
Many countries have urged their citizens not to visit China, while some have banned entry for travellers from Wuhan and Russia said it was closing its far eastern border with China over the outbreak.