The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Friday that the novel coronavirus outbreak has become a public health emergency of international concern.
However, that should not be taken as a vote of no confidence in China’s efforts to curb the spread of the virus, in which the WHO said it has faith. Rather it conveys the organisation’s concern about the virus spreading to “countries with weaker health systems”, as WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
The announcement came as more cases and the first death were confirmed in 22 countries and regions outside the Chinese mainland. Most of them involved people who had arrived from Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, where the outbreak originated, although some were those who had come into close contact with people from the city.
Against this background, the WHO’s warning serves to fire the starting gun for coordinated efforts to bring the virus under control before it can run wild in the least-developed countries.
The declaration of a global health emergency not only imposes more disease reporting requirements on countries. It will also, one hopes, prompt more funds and resources to be forthcoming.
Since much remains to be understood about the new virus, because the source of the outbreak has not yet been verified and the full extent to which it has spread is not yet known, it is to be hoped that institutes and researchers in related fields can follow the WHO’s call, as they did after the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, and take full advantage of the WHO platform and other bilateral and multilateral cooperation mechanisms to coordinate their efforts so as to strengthen monitoring and accelerate the development of vaccines and treatments.
Since identifying the pathogen in record time, China has shared the genetic sequence of the virus with the WHO and relevant countries and regions, which has helped lay the foundation for international efforts to develop a vaccine and effective treatments.
In the meantime, governments of relevant countries and regions can learn from China’s experiences in its ongoing fight against the pandemic.
Showing that China is resolved to do what it can to curb the virus’ worldwide transmission, the foreign ministry announced on Friday that the country is sending chartered planes to bring home anyone from Hubei province who had travelled overseas for the holiday.
With the daily increase in the number of people infected with the virus rising from dozens to thousands in a week, reaching nearly 12,000 yesterday, 259 having died, the war with the demon that has been released has come to its most difficult period.
But that has only served to further unite the nation and consolidated people’s resolve to win the war.
It is hoped that the international community will recognise and, more importantly support, the efforts China is making to contain the pandemic and maintain global health security. Zhang Jun, China’s permanent representative to the UN, said that in this difficult time it is crucial that the international community be united. He mentioned the director-general said the main reason for the declaration is “not because of what is happening in China, but because of what is happening in other countries”.
The organisation’s 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”.CHINA DAILY