What is an international health emergency?

WHO declared an international health emergency against the epidemic from China, this means that general measures will be decreed to prevent the spread.

A health worker with protective equipment.

A health worker with protective equipment. / Photo: Reuters / Baz Ratner - Stock Photo

LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Suárez

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Leer en español: ¿Qué es una emergencia sanitaria internacional?

The coronavirus has been increasing exponentially every day since the first cases were known. Faced with this epidemic, which already has more than 17,000 thousand confirmed cases and 361 deaths, according to the latest figures published, WHO went from declaring it a health emergency only internally in China to international in just a few days.

The reason for this change in their statements was that, although the majority of cases are still in China and that country is taking the necessary measures quickly and quickly, high spread requires that nations focus their efforts on preventing the expansion of outbreak. Currently, only 151 cases have been confirmed in other countries and there has been one death. Although the number is not high compared to the number of people affected in the Asian country, these cases are in 23 countries, which means that the outbreak has managed to cross borders quickly.

The ease of contagion has been the main reason why the decision has been made. This, since it was proven from the beginning that this is a disease that is spread from human to human, making its spread easier. For this reason, many airlines have prevented the flow to and from China, although WHO still remains in the decision that travel and international trade should not be restricted.

Thus, the decision to declare an international health emergency serves as an effort primarily to achieve global commitment in this regard. The Director-General of WHO, Dr. Tredos Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke about the need for countries to contribute actively. “We call on all countries to share data, sequences, knowledge & experience with WHO & the world. The only way we will defeat the # 2019nCoV outbreak is for all countries to work together in a spirit of solidarity & cooperation."

Also read: Did the new virus reach Latin America?

This announcement comes more than anything in order for countries to support others less developed since it has been determined that poor health conditions are what facilitates their widespread. Similarly, help has been requested from the international community to cooperate with the detection of possible cases and the investigation of treatments and vaccines, in which WHO has already been working hand in hand with doctors and scientific researchers.

In the press conference in which the state of emergency was declared, Dr. Tredos also stated that it is necessary to prevent disinformation and stigmatization because in recent days he began to see rejection towards the Chinese despite the fact that the virus did not It is exclusive to the citizens of that country. "It's time for solidarity, not stigma," he said.

The global health emergency is a measure stipulated in the International Health Regulations (RSI) whose signatories are 196 countries. This constitutes a global public health risk so the response must be coordinated together. This measure has only been taken in specific cases and it has been when WHO considers that the effort should include the 196 countries. Other occasions were with bird flu (H5N1) in 2004, in 2005 with SARS, which also began in China, in 2014 for Ebola in West Africa, in 2016 for Zika and in 2019 again for Ebola, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Quick actions

In the face of a virus with such ease to spread, WHO has had to act effectively, just as China has had to. Repeatedly, the organization has celebrated the effort of the Asian country in the face of rapid measures and good management in the crisis.

Read also The Chinese Community in Colombia joins to send supplies to their country

His greatest feat against the outbreak was the construction in a record time of a hospital that will focus on caring for people infected with the coronavirus. The Huoshenshan Hospital was built in 10 days, inaugurated last Monday, February 3. This one has 1000 beds and 30 spaces for intensive care and is one of the two that China announced it will create to prevent further deaths from the virus.

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