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WHO waves off global health emergency as China locks down cities to stop virus

by on January 25, 2020
 
A viral illness in China that has sickened hundreds of people is not yet a global health emergency, the World Health Organization said today. WHO issued its evaluation after Chinese authorities moved to lock down five cities earlier in the day and cancelled major events in the capital, Beijing, during the Lunar New Year holiday period to try to contain the new virus. The United Nations health agency made the decision after independent experts spent two days assessing information about the spread of the newly identified coronavirus. “It’s too early to consider this as a public health emergency of international concern,” Didier Houssin, the chair of the emergency advisory committee, said, noting that the panel “was very divided, almost 50-50.”
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WHO defines a global emergency as an “extraordinary event” that constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response. Previous global emergencies have been declared for the emergence of Zika virus in the Americas, the swine flu pandemic, and polio. Chinese authorities are locking down cities that are home to more than 18 million people in an unprecedented effort to try to contain the deadly new virus that has sickened hundreds and spread to other parts of the world. The train station and the airport in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, are shut down, and bus, ferry and subway service has been halted.
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The city of Huanggang announced a suspension of bus and rail systems and encouraged people not to leave the city. Cafes, cinemas, theatres and exhibitions are being shut. Shortly afterwards, Ezhou to the south shut its train stations.

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