Coronavirus Declared as Global Emergency by WHO

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By Bryan Tan Van Hong

Publicity Associate at YPC. Currently working in Esyms, an online pharmacy platform and Registered Pharmacist at a retail pharmacy. Oh, and not to forget, pun enthusiast.

The recent coronavirus outbreak took us by surprise. This storm came as sudden as a midnight deluge, and it seems like it is here to stay. Admittedly, even I myself am wearing a mask as I type this. What seem to otherwise be commonplace items such as face masks and hand sanitizers are now scarce and the public are flocking to pharmacies to hunt and horde.

8th case of infection in Malaysia was reported on 30 January.

170 people have died in China since first case was reported.

The situation is dire, to say the least.

WHO Declares outbreak now meets the criteria for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern

On 30 January 2020, a second meeting was held within the Emergency Committee of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The committee is responsible in providing public health advice to the Director-General.

The Ministry of Health of the Republic of China reported that there are 7711 confirmed cases, 12167 suspected cases, and 170 deaths. In other countries, 83 cases were reported in 18 countries.

After the second meeting, the committee agreed that this crisis now meets the criteria for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

“The term Public Health Emergency of International Concern is defined in the IHR (2005) as “an extraordinary event which is determined, as provided in these Regulations:

  1. to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease; and
  2. to potentially require a coordinated international response”. This definition implies a situation that: is serious, unusual or unexpected; carries implications for public health beyond the affected State’s national border; and may require immediate international action. “


The committee believes that this should be viewed as a sign of solidarity and support for the people of China. The Director-General accepted the committee’s advice and issued this as a Temporary Recommendations.

Actions to be taken next

The Emergency committee advised WHO to have a multidisciplinary technical mission to China to review and support the investigations of the source of the outbreak, clinical spectrum of the disease and its severity, the extent of transmission, and the efforts in controlling this situation.

WHO should also facilitate and offer support in vulnerable countries and regions. Development of potential vaccines, diagnostics, antiviral medicines, and other therapeutics should be encouraged and supported.

To all countries:

The committee has also issued a statement directed at all countries. These include:

  • Countries should be prepared at all times for containment, isolation, contact tracing, and prevention of spread of the virus.
  • Countries are legally required to share information with WHO.
  • Detection of 2019-nCoV in animals should be reported.
  • Place emphasis of reducing human infection, decrease secondary transmission, and assisting the international response towards this ordeal.
  • Inform WHO about travel measures implemented.


The committee will reconvene within 3 months or earlier.


Image taken from Kevin Frayers, Getty Images