World Health Organization warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is a long way from being over amid the largest daily rise in global cases, said the director general yesterday - Photo by WHO Office

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday (01/30) declared the fast-spreading coronavirus that’s infected more than 8,200 across the world is a global health emergency, a rare designation that helps the international agency mobilize financial and political support to contain the outbreak.

The agency made the declaration after a meeting of its emergency committee, which declined to do so last week. Since then, China, other governments and multinational businesses have taken emergency steps to limit the virus’s spread, including halting some travel to China.

While nearly 99 percent of the 7,874 diagnoses have been limited to China, 98 cases have been diagnosed in 18 other countries, including the United States (US). Eight of the cases outside China were the result of human-to-human transmission, these cases took place in Germany, Japan, Vietnam, and the US.

At least 18 other countries or territories have also reported a small number of coronavirus cases, with Finland, India and the Philippines now reporting cases in people who have traveled to Wuhan, according to WHO.

The WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the declaration is not a “vote of no confidence” in China, which has been widely praised for its transparency and work to control the outbreak.

“The speed with which China detected the outbreak, isolated the virus, sequenced the genome and shared it with WHO and the world are very impressive,” said Ghebreyesus in a statement, adding the WHO was acting to protect countries with fewer resources.

What’s more, the WHO stressed its announcement should not disrupt any country’s economy unnecessarily, citing the emergency designation has been used just a few times in recent years, including during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic; the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa; and the Zika virus epidemic in 2015-16.

“There is no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade. WHO doesn’t recommend limiting trade and movement,” Ghebreyesus said.

In the US, six people have now been diagnosed with the new coronavirus: two each in Illinois and California, and one each in Arizona and Washington state. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the first case of person-to-person transmission in the US on Thursday, between a patient and her husband in Chicago. Health officials said the spread between such close contacts was not unexpected and warned additional cases could pop up in the coming weeks.

While the Hubei Province Health Commission on Thursday reported an additional 42 deaths along with an additional 1,220 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the region as of Jan. 30. That brings the total to 204 deaths and 5,806 cases in the province.

Then, China’s National Health Commission said there have been an additional 43 deaths and 1,982 new confirmed cases, as of the end of Thursday. That brings the country’s total to 213 deaths and 9,692 confirmed cases, the government said.

The virus is affecting China’s economy, the world’s second-largest, with a growing number of countries advising their citizens to avoid all travel to the country. The recent ban comes from Italy, Rusia, France Japan, and India, BBC reported.

Voluntary evacuations of hundreds of foreign nationals from Wuhan are underway, and the British, Australia, South Korea, Singapore, and New Zealand are expected to quarantine all evacuees for two weeks to monitor them for symptoms and avoid any contagion, Xinhua reports.

Written by Lexy Nantu, Email: