After a week of studying the data and assessing the impact on the fast spreading coronavirus that’s infected more than 8,200 people across the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) finally declared the breakout a global health emergency late Thursday – a rare designation that helps the international agency mobilize financial and political support to contain the outbreak.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, announced the decision after a meeting of its Emergency Committee, an independent panel of experts, amid mounting evidence of the virus spreading to some 18 counties.
Tedros told a news conference in Geneva that recent weeks have witnessed an unprecedented outbreak which has been met by an unprecedented response.
“Let me be clear, this declaration is not a vote of no confidence in China,” he said. “On the contrary, WHO continues to have confidence in China’s capacity to control the outbreak.”
“The main reason for this declaration is not because of what is happening in China, but because of what is happening in other countries,” Tedros 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.”
Tedros Praised China’s Response
Tedros praised China’s prompt actions to limit the spread of the outbreak, and reiterated that the WHO is opposed to any trade or travel restrictions.
WHO Director Tedros, who had just returned from meeting with Chinese leaders in Beijing, including President Xi Jinping, told reporters Wednesday that Chinese officials had shown they were committed to combating the transmission of the virus and demonstrated cooperation with other countries to stem its global spread.
“Its actions actually helped prevent the spread of coronavirus to other countries,” Tedros, as he is known, said about China. He said he was “very impressed and encouraged by the president’s detailed knowledge of the outbreak.”
WHO Decision Supported by Health Community
Jeremy Farrar, an infectious disease expert and director of the Wellcome Trust global health charity, said the WHO’s decision was “absolutely right”.
The declaration would “undoubtedly sharpen governments’ focus” he said. “But we must also step-up as an international community to make sure no one is left behind – with all interventions, including public health measures, diagnostics, treatments and vaccines available to everyone,” added.
This article was originally posted on FX Empire
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