Following the spread of the deadly coronavirus in 18 countries as reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday, the world’s health apex institution has declared the outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
The WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus made the declaration after receiving the report of the second meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by himself under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) on the outbreak of the novel coronavirus 2019. Although the announcement is coming a week after the emergency meeting had said that the disease had not attained a level of global concern.
Expatiating on the declaration, Ghebreyesus explained through his Twitter handle that the announcement was not a vote of no confidence on China. “This declaration is not a vote of no confidence in China’s capacity to control the outbreak. On the contrary WHO continues to have confidence in China’s capacity to control the outbreak,” he reiterated.
He however stressed the importance of adhering to the committee’s recommendations as that will go a long way in containing the spread of the disease. “More important than the declaration of a public health emergency are the committee’s recommendations for preventing the spread of the #2019nCoV virus and ensuring a measured and evidence-based response”, he quipped.
The Emergency Committee’s report noted that more than 7700 cases have been confirmed, and 170 people have died in China as at the time of declaration, thus it urged all countries to put up surveillance measures, early detection and isolation centres in place in case of any exportation of the disease.
Coronavirus as a global threat
The report reads in part: “It is expected that further international exportation of cases may appear in any country. Thus, all countries should be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of onward spread of 2019-nCoVinfection, and to share full data with WHO.
“The Committee does not recommend any travel or trade restriction based on the current information available.
“Committee welcomed a forthcoming WHO multidisciplinary technical mission to China, including national and local experts. The mission should review and support efforts to investigate the animal source of the outbreak, the clinical spectrum of the disease and its severity, the extent of human-to-human transmission in the community and in healthcare facilities, and efforts to control the outbreak. This mission will provide information to the international community to aid in understanding the situation and its impact and enable sharing of experience and successful measures”, it stated.
Preventive measures taken by the Nigerian government
In the wake of the widespread of coronavirus in Nigeria, the Minister of Health Dr Osagie Ehanire has urged Nigerians and non-Nigerians in the country intending to travel to China to suspend their trips, pending the containment of the outbreak.
Ehanire, who briefed journalists recently on the state of things in Nigeria, said the government is issuing the caution due to the spread of the new virus across countries.
However, he said that Nigeria is not closing her borders against passengers from China from entering the country once they have been screened at the airport.
He also added that “all persons arriving from China or any country that has a major outbreak, even if they have no symptoms at all, to self-isolate, meaning that they stay indoors in their homes for at least two weeks”.
“… and if they develop any symptoms, like cough, catarrh, sneezing, breathing difficulties within this period, to report to the nearest health facility,” he added.
He urged citizens to be calm as the NCDC is coordinating surveillance activities in the country.