China coronavirus: WHO declares international emergency as death toll exceeds 200 (2020/01/31)

The World Health Organization has declared the current novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak to be a public health emergency of international concern, as latest figures show that nearly 10 000 people have been infected and that over 200 have died.

WHO’s emergency committee reconvened on 30 January—a week after it first met—to reassess the situation. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general, said that the declaration was “not because of what is happening in China but because of what is happening in other countries.”

He warned, “Our greatest concern is for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems that are ill prepared to deal with it.”

The announcement was soon followed by the first two confirmed cases of the virus in the UK. Little detail has been provided on these cases, but the Department of Health and Social Care reported that the patients were from the same family and were receiving specialist NHS care.1

The virus—believed to have originated from a seafood market in Wuhan, China, at the end of 2019—has infected nearly 10 000 people worldwide as of 31 January and has resulted in the deaths of 213 people.

At least 19 countries have now reported cases, although most are in China and no deaths have been reported elsewhere. Eight cases of human to human transmission have been seen in four countries: Germany, Japan, the US, and Vietnam.