WHO convenes emergency meeting as coronavirus death toll hits 170

A logo is pictured on the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) ahead of a meeting of the Emergency Committee on the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Geneva, Switzerland, January 30, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

A World Health Organization (WHO) panel met in Geneva on Thursday to discuss the latest developments regarding the Wuhan coronavirus, which has killed 170 people and spread from China to at least 16 other countries.

The panel's 16 independent experts will decide whether the spread of the virus constitutes an international emergency, something they said was premature when they last met on Jan. 23, although the final decision on the move depends on WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

A WHO declaration of an international public health emergency is rare, with only five going into effect in the past decade. These include situations concerning the 2009 H1 virus that caused an influenza pandemic, West Africa's Ebola outbreak, polio in 2014, the Zika virus in 2016 and the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A global health emergency would entail recommendations to all countries aimed at preventing or reducing cross-border spread of disease while avoiding unnecessary interference with trade and travel.

Although the WHO has no legal authority to sanction countries, it could ask governments to provide scientific justification for any travel or trade restrictions that they impose in the event of an international emergency.

(Source: Reuters) 

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