World Health Organization stated Wednesday that spread of the new coronavirus outside of China is of “grave concern” and has impelled it to reconsider an emergency meeting this week to resolve whether the coronavirus outbreak has become a global emergency.
The new virus, which first seen in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has now passed on to a handful of people outside China, with human-to-human transmission also reported, Dr Mile Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program told in a news conference at Geneva headquarters Wednesday.
“The developments in terms of the evolution of the spread and further expansion of transmission, these are of grave concern and has urged countries into action,” Ryan said and added that he just came back from China.
“What we got at this stage, this is still clearly a very active outbreak, and detail is being updated and varying by the hour,” Ryan said.
Up to currently, the coronavirus epidemic has killed 132 people in China, with more than 6,150 infected across over a dozen countries worldwide.
The WHO’s chief director said there’re 71 cases outside of China in around 15 other countries. He declined at two emergency meetings last week to affirm the coronavirus a global health emergency.
First reported in Wuhan on December 31, the coronavirus mushroomed to 6,061 cases in mainland China as of Wednesday morning. The virus has surpassed the total number of SARS cases in China during the 2003 epidemic.
There were 5,327 SARS cases in China and about 8,000 across the world identified between November 1, 2002, and July 31, 2003, according to the World Health Organization.
Last week, Ryan told reporters about a WHO’s criteria used to determine whether a disease is an international health emergency, saying that it depends on whether a disease spreads locally once it identified in new parts of the world, “and that’s a nuanced and crucial distinction to make.”
The other key criteria is to make an assessment of whether an outbreak is already interfered or will likely interfere with travel and trade, Dr Mile Ryan further told the reporters.
The goal of WHO’s committee, Ryan said, is to contain an epidemic without unnecessarily disturbing economic activity just by declaring a global health crisis.
Some of the German health officials said on Tuesday that a 33-year-old man there contracted the virus from a colleague whom he visited at a workplace in Shanghai, pointing what appears to be one of the first cases of human-to-human transmission outside China.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of WHO, described that “continued rise in cases and the confirmation of person-to-person transmission outside of China, definitely, most disturbing.” According to Tedros, illness from the new coronavirus produces a range of symptoms that could eventually end up making patients extremely ill with pneumonia and respiratory failure.
“Though the numbers outside China are so far relatively low, they hold the potential for a much greater outbreak,” Tedros warned.
The WHO Director-General also said late during the conference that he recently has met with the Chinese President Xi Jinping, China’s minister of foreign affairs, Wang Yi, and China’s National Health Commission minister, Ma Xiaowei, on Tuesday. During the meeting, the Chinese officials and I talked about containment measures and sharing information on the virus, Tedros said.
“I was really encouraged and impressed by the President’s knowledge of the outbreak and his self-involvement in the response,” Tedros told reporters.
World Health Organization officials enlightened that they view the current coronavirus epidemic on four different fronts: public health response in the city of Wuhan, the response in other Chinese provinces, the 15 other countries with confirmed cases and preventative initiatives by the whole world.
“We’re moving forward on sharing information, guidelines and tools,” the WHO Director-General said.