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WHO Declares Coronavirus A Public Health Emergency

More than 170 people have died in China and around 7,700 have been infected.
A directions sign is seen at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, where a patient is being treated in isolation for novel coronavirus.
Carlos Osorio / Reuters
A directions sign is seen at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, where a patient is being treated in isolation for novel coronavirus.

The coronavirus outbreak has been declared a ‘public health emergency’ by the World Health Organisation — as the Canadian government works to get Canadians out of the Chinese city of Wuhan.

It is the sixth time the World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued the emergency declaration in just over a decade, following outbreaks of zika, ebola (twice), swine flu and polio.

More than 170 people have died in China and around 7,700 have been infected, with cases detected in countries including Canada, the US, and South Korea.

Speaking at a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland, director general of the WHO Tedros Adhanom 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.

“As I have said repeatedly since my return from Beijing, the Chinese government is to be congratulated for the extraordinary measures it has taken to contain the outbreak, despite the severe social and economic impact those measures are having on the Chinese people.

“We would have seen many more cases outside China by now – and probably deaths – if it were not for the government’s efforts, and the progress they have made to protect their own people and the people of the world.”

Last week, WHO said it was “too early” to declare an international public health emergency but on Thursday said action was needed to help countries to prepare for the possibility of it spreading further.

The new virus has now infected more people in China than fell ill during the 2002-2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak. The number of cases has jumped to 7,711, surpassing the 5,327 people diagnosed with SARS.

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