Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a press conference following a WHO Emergency committee to discuss whether the Coronavirus, the SARS-like virus, outbreak that began in China constitutes an international health emergency, on January 30, 2020 in Geneva. (Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

Calling for Spread of 'Facts, Not Fear,' WHO Declares Global Health Emergency as Coronavirus Cases Confirmed in 18 Countries

The World Health Organization warned that restricting movement may have limited benefits for the global population as health officials work to fight the respiratory disease.

Julia Conley

Amid reports that the strain of coronavirus first detected in Wuhan, China has now spread to 18 countries, the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency on Thursday.

WHO held an emergency committee meeting to discuss the respiratory disease, called 2019-nCoV by global health experts, which has spread from person-to-person in at least five countries, including China, Germany, Japan, Vietnam, and the United States.

"There are now 98 2019-nCoV cases in 18 countries outside China," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO.

"We don't know what sort of damage this 2019-nCoV 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," he added. "For all of these reasons, I am declaring a public health emergency of international concern over the global outbreak of 2019-nCoV."

Watch:

Following the declaration, countries will be required to follow more stringent disease reporting guidelines. More funding and resources are expected to be released to fight the outbreak.

China has reported more than 7,700 cases of the disease and 170 deaths. So far, there have been no deaths from the disease outside of China.

On Thursday, the first human-to-human transmission case was confirmed in the U.S., where at least six people have been sickened. A man in the Chicago area reportedly contracted the coronavirus from his wife, who had recently returned from Wuhan.

Tedros emphasized that all but seven coronavirus cases outside China have been detected in patients who recently traveled to Wuhan.

On Thursday, Russia closed its 2,600-mile border with China to stop the transmission of the virus.

WHO said at its meeting that while countries should be prepared for containment and isolation of patients with confirmed coronavirus cases, restricting movement may have limited benefits and many drawbacks for the global population.

"Evidence has shown that restricting the movement of people and goods during public health emergencies may be ineffective and may divert resources from other interventions," the organization said. "Further, restrictions may interrupt needed aid and technical support, may disrupt businesses, and may have negative effects on the economies of countries affected by the emergencies."

Tedros also praised the Chinese government for its swift detection and reporting of the outbreak.

"We would have seen many more cases outside China by now—and probably deaths—if it were not for the government's efforts, and the progress they have made to protect their own people and the people of the world," the director-general said.

Ninety-nine percent of the coronavirus cases have been in China, and the disease has a 2% death rate as of Thursday. The number of cases has surpassed the cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that were reported during an outbreak in 2002 and 2003.

Other global health organizations pledged to work in cooperation to help fight the spread of the illness, while health professionals worked to combat the spread of misinformation about coronavirus on social media.

"This is the time for facts, not fear," tweeted Tedros. "This is the time for science, not rumors. This is the time for solidarity, not stigma."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

As Other States Try to Copy Texas, SCOTUS Asked to Find Abortion Ban Unconstitutional

The request from healthcare providers comes after a Florida Republican filed a copycat bill and advocacy groups called on Congress to affirm the right to abortion nationwide.

Jessica Corbett ·


As Bids to Slash Pentagon Budget Fail, US Military Spending Slammed as 'Height of Absurdity'

"Spending $780 billion on weapons and war while our communities starve, while the climate crisis worsens, while a pandemic that has killed millions and affected countless more rages on, is a national shame."

Brett Wilkins ·


'This Is Big': House Passes Amendment to Cut US Complicity in Saudi Bombing of Yemen

The vote, said Rep. Ro Khanna, "sent a clear message to the Saudis: end the bombing in Yemen and lift the blockade."

Andrea Germanos ·


Praised for 'Braving the Smears,' Tlaib Votes Against $1 Billion in Military Aid to Israel

One rights group thanked Tlaib "for speaking truth to power" while being attacked "for simply insisting that Palestinians are human beings who deserve safety, security, and freedom from Israeli apartheid."

Brett Wilkins ·


'A Choice Point for Humanity': Women Demand Visionary Shift at UN Climate Talks

"This is the time to unite together to build the healthy and just future we know is possible for each other and the Earth."

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo