WHO Has Finally Declared the Wuhan Virus a Global Health Emergency & Here’s What it Means


By now, you would have already known that the Wuhan virus has been spreading rampantly, with more countries reporting their first cases and more. The situation in Wuhan hasn’t been good either, with China reporting more deaths each day.

As of the time of writing, there have been at least 213 deaths in China, with more than 9,815 people infected. This number has already surpassed the number of people infected by severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) back in 2003.

A Global Health Emergency

With how fast the novel coronavirus is spreading, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has finally declared it a global health emergency.

The WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a news conference in Geneva, “The main reason for this declaration is not what is happening in China but what is happening in other countries.”

Their primary concern is that the virus could spread to countries with weaker health systems.

Image: BBC

Even though most of the overseas cases that have been confirmed so far are of people who have travelled to Wuhan, there have been eight reported cases of human-to-human infection in Germany, Japan, Vietnam, and the United States.

Dr Tedros added that the virus was an “unprecedented outbreak” that has been met with an “unprecedented response”. He went on to commend the “extraordinary measures” the Chinese authorities have taken to curb its spread.

He also clarified that “this declaration is not a vote of no confidence in China”.

This declaration would help give recommendations to all countries to prevent and reduce cross-border spread of disease, whilst also avoiding unnecessary interference with trade and travel.

This enhances the measures taken and helps national health authorities worldwide to increase their monitoring, preparedness, and containment measures.

Image: BBC

While the WHO has no legal right to sanction countries, they can now ask governments to give any scientific justification for travel or trade restrictions that they impose in the case of an international emergency.


They believe that this declaration would “undoubtedly sharpen governments’ focus”, and Dr Tedros added, “But we must also step up as an international community to make sure no one is left behind – with all interventions, including public health measures, diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines available to everyone.”

Necessary Measure To Help Weaker Countries

Many low- and middle-income countries do not have the equipment to spot or contain the virus, which is why it is so important the WHO to declare a global emergency.

The fact that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014 could reach such heights shows that it is extremely easy for poorer countries to be overwhelmed by such outbreaks. As such, the WHO has to declare this a global emergency.

This allows them to then step in and help these countries to enhance their disease surveillance, as well as to prepare them for coronavirus cases.

While this disease is relatively new seeing as to how it emerged only last month, there are already almost 10,000 confirmed cases in China and 12,167 suspected ones.

And even though WHO believes that China is able to control the outbreak in their country, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

How Bad Is This Virus?

There will be a declaration of Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the WHO when there is “an extraordinary event which is determined… to constitute a public health risk to other states through the international spread of disease”.

You can take a look below to see how bad the Wuhan virus is in relation to the five other global public health emergencies previously declared:

2009 Swine Flu

  • The H1N1 virus spread across the world in 2009 and claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people.
  • The WHO declared it a global health emergency so as to support the world and ensure that there was enough monitoring of its spread. They also ensured that countries knew how to respond to the virus either through treatment or with vaccines.

2014 Polio

  • Even though polio was almost entirely eradicated in 2012, there was a surge in the number of polio cases in 2013.
  • The WHO declared it a global health emergency because they were afraid that there would be a lot of challenges during the world’s fight for its eradication.

2016 Zika

  • Zika spread rapidly through the Americas in 2016.
  • Even though many of the symptoms for the disease are mild, it would cause serious problems for pregnant women.
  • As such, the WHO declared it a global health emergency to get more researchers to do research and curb the spread of the disease.

2014 and 2019 Ebola

  • Ebola first broke out in August 2014 and it lasted all the way till March 2016. Approximately 30,000 people were infected and more than 11,000 people lost their lives in West Africa.
  • As a result, the WHO declared it a global health emergency because of “the virulence of the virus, the intensive community and health facility transmission patterns, and the weak health systems” in affected countries.
  • It was also declared a global health emergency last year when there was an outbreak spread in DR Congo.

What Is China Doing?

It has been revealed that all parts of mainland China has at least a trace of the virus following the news that there was a confirmed case in Tibet.

Even though many have questioned the transparency of China, President Xi Jinping has made a promise to defeat the “devil” virus.

The central province of Hubei has been in lockdown since 23 January in an effort to quarantine the central location of where the outbreak began. It is not known how long the lockdown will last. Supplies have been running low as more people flock to convenience stores to stock up on food and commodities.

China has also imposed many transport restrictions so as to contain the virus.


Those working in Hubei have also been told by their bosses to work from home until it is safe for them to return back to work.

It is extremely unfortunate that this virus has caused so many lives to be lost, and so many people to fall sick, as well as China’s economy to take a toll. Many countries have already advised their citizens not to travel to China unless necessary.

We can only hope and pray for everyone that we will stay strong together through this pandemic. Stay safe, everyone.