Geneva, Jan 23: The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday night extended to Thursday its emergency talks on whether the novel coronavirus outbreak in China constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
"There was an excellent discussion during the meeting today, but it was also clear that to proceed, we need more information," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press conference after a closed-door meeting of an Emergency Committee, Xinhua reported. "For that reason, I have decided to ask the Emergency Committee to meet again tomorrow to continue the discussion," added Tedros.
"The decision about whether or not to declare a public health emergency of international concern is one I take extremely seriously, and one I am only prepared to make with appropriate consideration of all the evidence," the WHO chief noted. Tedros said he was very impressed by the detail and depth of China's presentation of the situation of the novel coronavirus outbreak. He also appreciated the cooperation of Ma Xiaowei, head of China's National Health Commission, who he had spoken with directly during the last few days and weeks.
The WHO chief appreciated China's immediate detecting and sharing of the sequencing of the virus, so that other countries like Japan, the Republic of Korea and Thailand are able to get most of the virus quickly. Actions were also taken immediately especially on the market in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the first case of novel coronavirus infection (2019-nCoV) was identified. Those actions were followed by other very strong measures including halting flights and trains out of Wuhan from Thursday. Tedros believed that those actions will "minimize the chances of this outbreak spreading internationally."
The PHEIC is defined by the WHO as an extraordinary event that is determined to constitute a public health risk to other states through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response. Didier Houssin, chair of the Emergency Committee and an adviser to France's national health security agency, told reporters that the views of the members of the committee were split in declaring the novel coronavirus outbreak as a PHEIC. UNI