Infectious Diseases

WHO declares public health emergency for novel coronavirus


PHEIC travel and resource impact

Declaration of a PHEIC means WHO will now oversee any travel restrictions made by other countries in response to 2019-nCoV. The agency recommends that countries conduct a risk and cost-benefit analysis before enacting travel restrictions and other countries are required to inform WHO about any travel measures taken.

“Countries will be asked to provide public health justification for any travel or trade measures that are not scientifically based, such as refusal of entry of suspect cases or unaffected persons to affected areas,” Mr. Jasarevic said in an interview.

As far as resources, the PHEIC mechanism is not a fundraising mechanism, but some donors might consider a PHEIC declaration as a trigger for releasing additional funding to respond to the health threat, he said.

Allison T. Chamberlain, PhD, acting director for the Emory Center for Public Health Preparedness and Research at the Emory Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta, said national governments and nongovernmental aid organizations are among the most affected by a PHEIC because they are looked at to provide assistance to the most heavily affected areas and to bolster public health preparedness within their own borders.

Allison Chamberlain, Research Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, and Acting Director, Emory Center for Public Health Preparedness and Research, Emory Rollins School of Public

Dr. Allison Chamberlain

“In terms of resources that are deployed, a Public Health Emergency of International Concern raises levels of international support and commitment to stopping the emergency,” Dr. Chamberlain said in an interview. “By doing so, it gives countries the needed flexibility to release financial resources of their own accord to support things like response teams that might go into heavily affected areas to assist, for instance.”

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed that cooperation among countries is key during the PHEIC.

“We can only stop it together,” he said during the press conference. “This is the time for facts, not fear. This is the time for science, not rumors. This is the time for solidarity, not stigma.”

This is the sixth PHEIC declared by WHO in the last 10 years. Such declarations were made for the 2009 H1NI influenza pandemic, the 2014 polio resurgence, the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the 2016 Zika virus, and the 2019 Kivu Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.


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