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WHO declares novel coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern

On 30 January 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the 2019-novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). This declaration was made by the WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus after the second meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee regarding the outbreak of 2019-nCoV.

By the time of this declaration, a report from WHO indicated that the 2019-nCoV outbreak had affected 7,818 of which 7,736 were from China and 82 cases were from 18 countries outside China.

https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200130-sitrep-10-ncov.pdf?sfvrsn=d0b2e480_2 

The second meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the WHO Director-General under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) regarding the outbreak of novel coronavirus 2019 in the People’s Republic of China, with exportations to other countries, took place on Thursday, 30 January 2020, from 13:30 to 18:35 Geneva time (CEST). The Committee’s role is to give advice to the Director-General, who makes the final decision on the determination of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). The Committee also provides public health advice or suggests formal Temporary Recommendations as appropriate.

Proceedings of the meeting

Members and advisors of the Emergency Committee were convened by teleconference.

The Director-General welcomed the Committee and thanked them for their support. He turned the meeting over to the Chair, Professor Didier Houssin.

Professor Houssin also welcomed the Committee and gave the floor to the Secretariat. A representative of the department of compliance, risk management, and ethics briefed the Committee members on their roles and responsibilities.

Committee members were reminded of their duty of confidentiality and their responsibility to disclose personal, financial, or professional connections that might be seen to constitute a conflict of interest. Each member who was present was surveyed and no conflicts of interest were judged to be relevant to the meeting. There were no changes from the previous meeting.

The Chair then reviewed the agenda for the meeting and introduced the presenters.

Representatives of the Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China reported on the current situation and the public health measures being taken. There are now 7711 confirmed and 12167 suspected cases throughout the country. Of the confirmed cases, 1370 are severe and 170 people have died. 124 people have recovered and been discharged from the hospital.

The WHO Secretariat provided an overview of the situation in other countries. There are now 83 cases in 18 countries. Of these, only 7 had no history of travel in China. There has been human-to-human transmission in 3 countries outside China. One of these cases is severe and there have been no deaths. At its first meeting, the Committee expressed divergent views on whether this event constitutes a PHEIC or not.

At that time, the advice was that the event did not constitute a PHEIC, but the committee members agreed on the urgency of the situation and suggested that the Committee should continue its meeting on the next day when it reached the same conclusion.

This second meeting takes place in view of significant increases in numbers of cases and additional countries reporting confirmed cases.

Conclusions and advice

The Committee welcomed the leadership and political commitment of the very highest levels of the Chinese government, their commitment to transparency, and the efforts made.