The World Health Organisation has declared the coronavirus outbreak in China a public health emergency of international concern.
WHO had previously been reserved in making the declaration, but have acted as cases of the deadly virus continue to spread across multiple countries.
An offical from China told AFP the death toll from the virus had increased to 212 as of Friday – all in China, with over 9400 people being treated worldwide.
Late on Thursday Australia confirmed its ninth case, while the US announced human to human transmission of the virus had occurred within the country.
"Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems, and which are ill-prepared to deal with it,” Director-General of the World Health Organisation Tedros Adhanom said in Geneva late on Thursday (local time).
The new virus has now infected more people in China than fell ill during the 2002-2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak. A similar declaration wasn’t made for the SARS outbreak.
It is only the sixth time such a declaration has been made and the first since the Ebola outbreak.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 30, 2020
Under the International Health Regulations act of 2005, all 196 member states of the WHO are legally bound to help control the disease.
By definition, the health scare is “serious, unusual or unexpected”, “carries implications for public health beyond the affected state’s border” and “may require international action”.
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