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Novel coronavirus, a global health emergency

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

Travellers wear face masks to slow the spread of the Novel Corona virus. Photo: WHO

Due to the outbreak and fast spreading of the novel coronavirus, the World Health Organisation has declared it a global health emergency, on January 30.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva, over the past week the virus emergency has escalated into an unprecented outbreak met by an unprecedented response.

WHO is deeply concerned about what will happen if the virus begins spreading in countries with weak health systems, and that the purpose of the declaration is to help those countries.

However, he said the main reason for the declaration is not because of what is happening in China but because of what is happening in other countries.

 “Let me be clear, this vote is not a declaration of no confidence in China."

He said the declaration of a global health emergency can work to galvanize international funding. 

Despite, the emergency declaration, WHO is not recommending any restrictions on travel or trade at this time.

Countries should implement evidence-based public health policies, combat misinformation, share data, and work together to stop the spread of the virus, he said.

WHO also called for an acceleration in efforts to develop vaccines and treatments, and stressed that support be given to countries with weak health systems, which might not be able to cope with the virus. 

The last time WHO announced an international health emergency was in July 2019 over the Ebola outbreak in Congo.


Meanwhile, over in the Pacific, Samoa has stepped up its travel advisory, stating compulsory screening of its inbound passengers at all ports of entry.

A Special Health Declaration Form is required to be filled out by all travelling passengers inflight or on arrival in Samoa. 

In addition, all travelers originating from or transiting through mainland China must spend at least 14-days self-quarantine at country of last port, free of novel coronavirus and must undergo medical clearance within three days prior to final route to Samoa.

This must be their final stop before travelling to Samoa.

Samoa also strongly recommended that all persons intending to travel to China or any country affected by the virus to postpone their travel arrangements, unless necessary. 


The death toll in China has now risen to over 200, as more countries announced plans to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak.

More than 8,100 people are now confirmed globally to have the infection, which has spread from Wuhan's Hubei province to every one of China's 31 provinces.

WHO stated that It is expected that further international exportation of cases may appear in any country. “Thus, all countries should be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of onward spread of 2019-nCoV infection, and to share full data with WHO. Technical advice is available on the WHO website.”