The World Health Organization on Thursday declared a global public health emergency because of the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the WHO’s committee of international experts in Geneva. A meeting of the same group last week decided not to declare a global emergency.
At a press conference, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “the main reason for this declaration is not what is happening in China but what is happening in other countries.”
“Let me be clear: This declaration is not a vote of no confidence in China. On the contrary, the WHO continues to have confidence in China’s capacity to control the outbreak,” Ghebreyesus said, thanking the country for the “extraordinary measures” it had taken to control the disease, which originated in the central city of Wuhan.
Several Chinese cities have been under lockdown, as the death toll in the country has risen to at least 170. Ghebreyesus said that outside China, there have so far been 98 coronavirus cases confirmed in 18 countries. Eight of them were human-to-human infections, with such cases in Germany, Japan, Vietnam and the United States.
“So far we have not seen any deaths outside China, for which we must be grateful,” Ghebreyesus said, urging countries to “act all together now to limit a further spread.” He said those most at risk were countries “with weaker health systems and which are ill-prepared to deal with” the virus.