The World Health Organization (WHO) is in Geneva declared the outbreak of the novel coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern.
Following the second meeting of the organization’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee that day, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus held a news conference at WHO headquarters to announce the decision.
“Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed the emergence of a previously unknown pathogen, which has escalated into an unprecedented outbreak, which has been met by an unprecedented response,” he said.
“The main reason for this declaration is not because of what is happening in China, but because of what is happening in other countries. 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.”
Tedros added that “there is no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade,” and that “all countries (should) implement decisions that are evidence-based and consistent.”
The WHO said that as of Jan. 30, the combined number of confirmed coronavirus cases was 7,834, including 7,736 in China. The number outside of China was 98 in 18 countries, including eight cases of human-to-human transmissions in Germany, Japan, Vietnam and the U.S.
This is the sixth time the WHO has issued such a warning. The previous five came during the influenza A (H1N1) outbreak in 2009, the polio and West African Ebola outbreaks in 2014, the Zika virus epidemic in 2016 and the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo last year.