The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the deadly Chinese Corona Virus a global emergency after its latest meeting in Geneva Thursday amid reports that the virus has spread to 18 countries.
By Lovejoy Mutongwiza in Beijing
The declaration of a global emergency triggers recommendations to all countries aimed at preventing or reducing cross-border spread of disease, while avoiding unnecessary interference with trade and travel.
The declaration also follows days of hesitation from the UN health agency after it initially said the virus did not meet the criteria for it being deemed a global health scare.
However, WHO director-general,Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference in Geneva that recent weeks have witnessed an unprecedented outbreak which has been met by an unprecedented response.
“Let me be clear, this declaration is not a vote of no confidence in China,” he said.
“Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems,” he added.
The WHO panel, chaired by Didier Houssin of France, is composed of 16 independent experts.
Twice last week the experts had decided not to declare an emergency while they sought more information from China and awaited evidence of confirmed person-to-person spread of the virus in other countries, so as to meet their criteria for a global emergency.
Health authorities in Hubei, the Chinese province at the centre of the coronavirus epidemic, say deaths in the region have risen by 42 to 204.
The latest Hubei figures take the total death toll for China to at least 212.
There have been a further 1220 cases detected in Hubei by end of January 30, taking the total for the province alone to close to 6000, Hubei’s health commission said.
The Zimbabwean government has reiterated that it is ready to tackle the virus should it hit its shores.
Health Minister Obadiah Moyo said they are doing ‘everything possible’ and are on high alert to make sure the virus does not find its way into the country.
Like any other country, Moyo said, Zimbabwe will have to detect the virus at the ports of entry , mainly the airports.
“If the virus is to come to Zimbabwe, we have to catch it at the ports of entry. Screening points have been set up at all major ports of entry. Every aspect of the system is highly functional and this is not a condition from within, so it should be easier to deal with,” he said.