THE World Health Organisation’s (WHO) emergency committee has declared an international public health emergency over the coronavirus outbreak.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has called for global action to tackle the “unprecedented” outbreak of the deadly virus, which has killed at least 213 people in China.
There have been more than 9,000 confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, with fears the killer virus may spread to countries with poor health systems.
Meanwhile, a rescue flight carrying Brits from coronavirus-hit Wuhan will finally leave China tonight.
Declaring the emergency tonight, WHO director-general Dr Ghebreyesus warned “the main reason is not what is happening in China but what is happening in other countries.”
He added there have now been 98 cases in 18 countries outside China.
Eight cases were of human-to-human transmission Germany, Japan, Vietnam and the US.
Dr Ghebreyesus said: “Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed the emergence of a previously unknown pathogen, which has escalated into an unprecedented outbreak, and which has been met by an unprecedented response”
He praised China’s response but said there were major concerns about countries with weaker health systems that would not be able to deal with the virus.
He went on: “So far we have not seen any deaths outside China, for which we must all be grateful.
“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.
“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 virus could do if it were to spread in a country with a weaker health system. We must act now to help countries prepare for that possibility.”
The most recent time the WHO declared a global health emergency was in 2019 when an Ebola outbreak hit eastern Congo, killing more than 2,000 people.
Previous public health emergencies include the 2009 Swine flu outbreak which killed killing more than 200,000 people, a 2014 polio emergency and the 2016 spread of Zika in the Americas.
Britain’s chief medical officers increased the risk level of coronavirus from low to moderate, adding they “do not think the risk to individuals in the UK has changed” but the government should “plan for all eventualities”.
British passengers evacuated from Wuhan tonight will be taken to Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral where they’ll be quarantined for two weeks.
It’s understood the flight will leave Wuhan at 11pm tonight (7am local time) and land at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire at around 10.45am tomorrow.
Experts warned the first confirmed case of the deadly virus in Britain is only a matter of time as panic stalks the country.
Cases of the killer virus have tripled in just three days — with the strain infecting more people in China than SARS did.