Coronavirus Outbreak: WHO’s Decision To Not Declare A Global Public Health Emergency Explained

Masks are selling out in Singapore amid concerns about the Wuhan virus. Ng Sor Luan/EPA

By Tom Solomon

The World Health Organization’s decision to not declare the novel coronavirus outbreak in China a public health emergency of international concern, or PHEIC, will surprise many. The number of reported cases and deaths is doubling every couple of days, and patients have now been reported from many Asian countries, as well as the Middle East, Europe, Australia and the US.

You might wonder how bad things have to get before this is deemed to be a global public health emergency. But such declarations by the WHO are not taken lightly, as Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO) explained in the press conference.

The concept of the WHO declaring global public health emergencies first arose after the 2003 Sars coronavirus outbreak. As with the current outbreak, it started in a live animal market where the spread of infected excrement to humans allowed the virus to cross the species barrier. Read more…


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