The Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has decided not to declare the coronavirus outbreak that is spreading across the world, a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).

This was the resolution that was reached at the end of the meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee regarding the outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

WHO DG revealed that the Emergency Committee was divided over whether the outbreak represents a PHEIC While admitting that the outbreak is an emergency in China, WHO DG said it has not yet become a global health emergency.

According to the WHO, in addition to China, cases of the outbreak has also been reported in the Republic of Korea, Japan, Thailand and Singapore. There have been increased numbers of reported cases in China, with 557 confirmed as of 23 January.

“Chinese authorities presented new epidemiological information that revealed an increase in the number of cases, of suspected cases, of affected provinces, and the proportion of deaths in currently reported cases of 4% (17 of 557). They reported fourth-generation cases in Wuhan and second-generation cases outside Wuhan, as well as some clusters outside Hubei province. They explained that strong containment measures (closure of public-transportation systems in Wuhan City, as well as other nearby cities). After this presentation, the EC was informed about the evolution in Japan, Republic of Korea, and Thailand, and that one new possible case had been identified in Singapore,” WHO stated.

According to the proceedings of the meetings, the committee’s decision not to declare the outbreak a PHEIC hinged on China’s satisfactory response.

“The Committee welcomed the efforts made by China to investigate and contain the current outbreak..Several members considered that it is still too early to declare a PHEIC, given its restrictive and binary nature,” WHO stated.

It has now been established that human-to-human transmission is occurring. Furthermore, amplification has occurred in one health care facility. Of confirmed cases, 25% are reported to be severe. The source is still unknown (most likely an animal reservoir) and the extent of human-to-human transmission is still not clear. 

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