After an emergency committee meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva on Thursday, the international body has declared the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus a global health emergency.
"The main reason for this declaration is not because of what is happening in China, but because of what is happening in other countries," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Thursday. "Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems, and which are ill-prepared to deal with it."
Last week, the organisation had said that the virus outbreak did not yet constitute an emergency declaration. But as the number of infected around the world rises and with human-to-human transmission in countries outside China, the WHO reconvened its committee to discuss the issue.
Previous outbreaks identified by WHO as a public health emergency of international concern include Ebola, Zika and H1N1.
WHO has advised countries around the world to “be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of onward spread of 2019-nCoVinfection, and to share full data with WHO.”
“Countries should place particular emphasis on reducing human infection, prevention of secondary transmission and international spread, and contributing to the international response though multi-sectoral communication and collaboration and active participation in increasing knowledge on the virus and the disease, as well as advancing research,” said the WHO statement.