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Home / World News / WHO to decide if China virus is an international public health emergency

WHO to decide if China virus is an international public health emergency

Chinese experts will be taking part in the meeting, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

world Updated: Jan 21, 2020 17:50 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
Travellers wearing protective rest on a bench after arriving at the Beijing Capital Airport in Beijing on January 21, 2020.
Travellers wearing protective rest on a bench after arriving at the Beijing Capital Airport in Beijing on January 21, 2020. (AFP file photo)

If the World Health Organisation (WHO) declares the novel Coronavirus outbreak in China an international public health emergency on Wednesday, it will only be the fifth time the Geneva-based organisation would be doing so.

The WHO has called for an emergency meeting on Wednesday to determine whether the outbreak of a previously unknown strain of Coronavirus in China could be declared an “international public health emergency”, it announced early Tuesday.

Chinese experts will be taking part in the meeting, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

The WHO DG Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will “…convene an Emergency Committee (EC) on 2019-nCoV (Coronavirus) under the International Health Regulations (IHR) on Wednesday, 22 January 2020 to assess if the situation constitutes a public health emergency of international concern, and what recommendations should be put in place,” the WHO statement said.

The 2019 Ebola epidemic in DR Congo, which was the second deadliest epidemic of the nature on record, was the last time the WHO had declared a similar emergency.

The other four were the H1N1, or swine flu, pandemic of 2009, the spread of polio virus in 2014, the Ebola epidemic in parts of West Africa between 2014 and 2016 and the Zika virus outbreak in 2016, which started in Brazil and then spread to other parts of South America and North America.

“Under the IHR (International Health Regulations) WHO’s Director-General (DG) convenes the EC to get advice on whether an event constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Before that, the DG consults with the State Party on the territory of which the event is occurring, to review information and evidence on whether the event constitutes a PHEIC or not,” the WHO’s China office said in a statement to HT.

Explaining PHEIC, the statement added that means “…an extraordinary event, with risk which constitutes a public health risk to other countries through the international spread, and to potentially require a coordinated international response”.

China’s ministry of foreign affairs said on Tuesday that Beijing was ready to work with international community to respond to the epidemic.

“As far as I know, on the evening of January 22, Beijing time, China will, at the invitation of WHO, join other countries affected by the epidemic to participate in the meeting of the Emergency Committee of the International Health Regulations. Participating countries, WHO, and relevant experts will share outbreak information and conduct scientific research and judgment on the outbreak,” Geng Shuang, ministry spokesperson, said at the regular briefing on Tuesday.

“China is willing to continue to deepen international cooperation, work with the international community to respond to the epidemic, and jointly maintain regional and global health security,” Geng added.