Corona Virus: What makes an international public health emergency?

The World Health Organization is expected to announce whether the new coronavirus which originated in China will be designated a “public health emergency of international concern.” It’s a rarely-used declaration.

The WHO uses the term “public health emergency of international concern” (PHEIC) to refer to “an extraordinary event” concerning public health.
How does the WHO define a PHEIC?
There are two criteria to define an outbreak as such. Firstly, the outbreak must pose a risk to more than one country.
The second requirement is that an outbreak requires “a coordinated international response.”
The second requirement is that an outbreak requires “a coordinated international response.”
In the WHO’s official definition, they say this means a “situation that is serious, unusual or unexpected.”
A panel of experts, called the IHR Emergency Committee, is convened to discuss the situation. IHR stands for International Health Regulations — 196 countries including all WHO member states agreed to its most recent revision in 2005.
Ultimately, after assessing evidence including human-to-human transmission rates, the final decision rests with the WHO Director General, currently Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“The decision about whether or not to declare a public health emergency of international concern on new #coronavirus is one I take extremely seriously,” Ghebreyesus tweeted on Wednesday.
How often does the WHO designate outbreaks as PHEICs?
Although at first glance it would seem that the new coronavirus may have all the trappings of a PHEIC, it should be noted that it is rare that the WHO sees fit to make the declaration.
The WHO implemented the procedures to declare a PHEIC in 2005, as a response to the outbreaks of SARS and H5N1 (bird flu) in the early 2000s.
Only five emergencies have been declared since then: the H1 virus that caused an influenza pandemic (2009), West Africa’s Ebola outbreak (2014-2016), polio (2014), Zika virus (2016), and the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (2019).
It took a year after the outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo for the WHO to declare it a PHEIC.
What does the PHEIC status mean?
A declaration would lead to a boost in public health measures, funding and resources to prevent and reduce international spread.
It could include recommendations on trade and travel, including airport screening of passengers, although the WHO generally aims to avoid disruptive trade restrictions.
The city of Wuhan, where most cases of the new coronavirus have been reported, has already halted outbound traffic and urged visitors to keep away, while some other travel restrictions and temperature checks have been introduced across Asia.

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