The World Health Organization (WHO) held off designating a new fast-spreading coronavirus as an international health threat, but did deem it a crisis within China, where the pathogen has infected some 830 people and killed 26.
After two days of meetings, WHO determined it was a “bit too early” to label the outbreak an international health emergency on Thursday at a conference in Geneva, despite the rapidly rising disease toll.
“Make no mistake, though, this is an emergency in China,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, adding: “It has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one.”
China’s National Health Commission updated the latest figures on the virus’ impact across the country on the heels of the WHO decision, confirming a total of 830 infections and 26 fatalities, with an additional 8,420 “close contacts.”
The virus has traveled well beyond its epicenter in Wuhan – a city of 11 million and a major transport hub – claiming its first life outside its point of origin earlier this week. Wuhan itself was locked down on Wednesday, with all travel in and out of the city shut down indefinitely as health officials scramble to contain the outbreak.
Earlier on Thursday, Chinese officials announced that it would ramp up quarantine efforts, expanding travel restrictions to the cities of Huanggang and Ezhou, while Beijing has canceled all major public gatherings, including New Year celebrations set for later this month.
Infections have also been confirmed in Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the United States, prompting health authorities in the affected countries and elsewhere to set up screenings at airports in hopes of detecting signs of the illness, which include severe pneumonia-like symptoms.__RT.com