The World Health Organisation has taken the drastic, yet expected, step to declare the Coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency.
The WHO insist that it’s not the number of cases in China itself (almost 10,000 now) that has forced their hands, but rather the 98 cases of infection that have been confirmed in 18 other countries around the world.
“The main reason for this declaration is not what is happening in China but what is happening in other countries,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told BBC.
At the time of writing, no deaths have been reported outside of China, while the death toll has now risen beyond 200 within China itself, according to the New York Times. All of the deaths have occurred within the province of Hubei, with the virus first emerging in the city of Wuhan. As a result, China has completely locked down and sealed off the province, which is home to 60 million people, in order to contain the virus. Countries around the world have put travel bans on their citizens that have recently traveled to Wuhan and the UK, Australia, South Korea, Singapore and New Zealand have put them under two-week quarantines.
The biggest concern with regards to the virus and the reason it has been declared a global health emergency is not the spread within China itself, which has the means to contain it, but rather an outbreak in countries with poorer healthcare systems that aren’t capable of identifying or containing the virus. For example, many African countries were devastated by the outbreak of Ebola. With the declaration of a global healthcare emergency, there will now be international cooperation in efforts to contain the virus and aid countries with less developed healthcare systems.
A major concern is human-to-human transmission, of which the first case outside of China occurred in the US yesterday.
There have been five previous declarations of global health emergencies, including the 2009 Swine flue outbreak, the outbreak of polio in 2014, the Zika virus in 2016 and the Ebola outbreak of 2014 and 2019 that resulted in some 33,000 cases of infection and 11,000 deaths in West Africa alone