WHO declares international health emergency

White House considers ban on China flights amid coronavirus outbreak

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As the death toll from the coronavirus climbed to 213, the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency on Thursday and U.S. health officials reported the first U.S. case of person-to-person spread of the virus.

The U.N. health agency defines an international emergency as an “extraordinary event” that constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, which held its Emergency Committee meeting in Geneva, said there are 98 cases of coronavirus in 18 countries. 

Dr. Tedros praised China for its quick response to the crisis, which broke out in December, saying the emergency declaration “is not a vote of no confidence in China.”

The goal of the declaration, he said, was to provide support for countries with weaker health systems that have imported the virus from China. 

Among the committee’s seven-point recommendations, he said, were the speeding up of the development of vaccines and diagnostics and a review of each country’s preparedness plans. 

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