As the number of coronavirus outbreaks around the globe continues to climb, the World Health Organization (WHO) has now declared a global health emergency as a result.
The WHO made the declaration at a news conference today.
“There are now 98 cases in 18 countries outside China, including either cases of human-to-human transmission in four countries: Germany, Japan, Vietnam, and the United States of America,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization.
“So far we have not seen any deaths outside China, for which we must all be grateful,” he added. “Although these numbers are still relatively small compared to the number of cases in China, we must all act together now to limit further spread.”
As of January 30, he said, “the vast majority of cases outside China have a travel history to Wuhan or contact with someone with a travel history to Wuhan. We don’t know what sort of damage this sort of virus could do if it were to spread in a country with a weaker health system.”
As such, Ghebreyesus said “we must act now to help countries prepare for that possibility. For all these reasons, I’m declaring a public health emergency of international concern over the global outbreak of novel coronavirus.”
He noted that the “main reason” for the declaration is “not because of what is happening in China but because of what is happening in other countries.”
And the greatest concern “is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems and which are ill-prepared to deal with it.”
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Ghebreyesus also stressed that the declaration “is not a vote of no confidence in China. On the contrary, World Health Organization continues to have a confidence in China’s capacity to control the outbreak.”
Canadians told to avoid all non-essential travel to China
The WHO announcement comes on the same day that the Government of Canada advised Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel to China – the third time it has issued such an advisory over the past week.
Initially, Global Affairs said Canadians should avoid all travel to Hubei Province including the cities of Wuhan, Huanggang, and Ezhou, “due to the imposition of heavy travel restrictions in order to limit the spread of a novel coronavirus.”
Their advisory has since been updated to include avoiding all non-essential travel to China, not just the province of Hubei.
“There is an outbreak of a novel coronavirus in China,” a government statement said. “Several airlines have suspended or reduced flights to and from the country. Chinese authorities have imposed travel restrictions in parts of the country. Further restrictions may be imposed on short notice. It may be increasingly difficult to travel within the country or in and out of it.”
On Wednesday, Air Canada said it would temporarily suspend all direct flights to Beijing and Shanghai from January 30 to February 29.
At this time, the airline operates direct flights to both locations from Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.
More to come…