The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the coronavirus outbreak a global public health emergency of international concern.
In a press briefing following a meeting of the WHO’s international health regulations emergency committee, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, its director-general, said the declaration was not a lack of faith in China.
“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 added.
“The main reason for this declaration is not because of what is happening in China, but because of what is happening in other countries,” he said.
In total, 7 834 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed since its discovery, with 7 736 of these cases being in China.
Ghebreyesus said 170 people have died from the outbreak, all of them in China.
“As you know, I was in China just a few days ago, where I met with President Xi Jinping. I left in absolutely no doubt about China’s commitment to transparency, and to protecting the world’s people,” he added.
The WHO expressed concern the virus could potentially spread to countries with weaker health systems.
“We don’t know what sort of damage this [corona] virus could do if it were to spread in a country with a weaker health system. We must act now to help countries prepare for that possibility.”
The WHO’s international health regulations emergency committee has unveiled recommendations to prevent the further spread of the virus.
Part of these recommendations, Ghebreyesus said, was there was no reason to put measures in place that unnecessarily interfered with international travel or trade.