World • 24 January, 2020

Coronavirus 2019: 557 affected and 17 deaths

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The meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the WHO Director-General under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) regarding the outbreak of novel coronavirus 2019 in the People’s Republic of China, with exportations currently reported in the Republic of Korea, Japan, Thailand and Singapore, took place on Wednesday, 22 January and Thursday, 23 January 2020, WHO says in a statement.

The Committee’s role is to give advice to the Director-General, who makes the final decision on the determination of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). The Committee also provides public health advice or suggests formal temporary recommendations as appropriate.

On 23 January, representatives of the Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China, Japan, Thailand and the Republic of Korea updated the committee on the situation in their countries. There have been increased numbers of reported cases in China, with 557 confirmed as of today.

Chinese authorities presented new epidemiological information that revealed an increase in the number of cases, of suspected cases, of affected provinces, and the proportion of deaths in currently reported cases of 4% (17 of 557). They reported fourth-generation cases in Wuhan and second-generation cases outside Wuhan, as well as some clusters outside Hubei province. They explained that strong containment measures (closure of public-transportation systems in Wuhan City, as well as other nearby cities). After this presentation, the EC was informed about the evolution in Japan, Republic of Korea, and Thailand, and that one new possible case had been identified in Singapore.

The source is still unknown (most likely an animal reservoir) and the extent of human-to-human transmission is still not clear. 

Several members considered that it is still too early to declare a PHEIC, given its restrictive and binary nature. 

"WHO should continue to provide all necessary technical and operational support to respond to this outbreak, including with its extensive networks of partners and collaborating institutions, to implement a comprehensive risk communication strategy, and to allow for the advancement of research and scientific developments in relation to this novel coronavirus. In the face of an evolving epidemiological situation and the restrictive binary nature of declaring a PHEIC or not, WHO should consider a more nuanced system, which would allow an intermediate level of alert. Such a system would better reflect the severity of an outbreak, its impact, and the required measures, and would facilitate improved international coordination, including research efforts for developing medical counter measures," the statement says.

 

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