(CMR) The World Health Organization has now declared the new coronavirus as a global emergency, acknowledging that the virus represents a risk outside of China.
The declaration — officially called a Public Health Emergency of International Concern — serves notice to all United Nations member states that the world’s top health advisory body rates the situation as serious.
Countries can then decide whether to close their borders, cancel flights, screen people arriving at airports or take other measures. The decision came as cases have begun to appear in people who had not traveled to China during the outbreak.
Dr. Tedros, speaking at the press conference in Geneva, described the virus as an “unprecedented outbreak” that has been met with an “unprecedented response”. He praised the “extraordinary measures” Chinese authorities had taken to prevent it from spreading. “Let me be clear, this declaration is not a vote of no confidence in China,” he added.
“The main reason for this declaration is not what is happening in China but what is happening in other countries,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The concern is that it could spread to countries with weaker health systems. So far all 170 deaths have been in China.
Nearly 2,000 new cases were recorded in the past 24 hours for a total of 7,834 worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. The vast majority of the cases were inside China; 98 cases were confirmed in 18 other countries.
The rapid spread of the coronavirus has unleashed a wave of panic and, in some cases, outright anti-Chinese sentiment across the globe. In Japan, the hashtag #ChineseDon’tComeToJapan has been trending on Twitter. In Singapore, tens of thousands of residents have signed a petition calling for the government to ban Chinese nationals from entering the country.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra announced Thursday morning that it was canceling a tour of Asia that had been scheduled to begin next week.