(Reuters) - A World Health Organization panel is meeting in Geneva on Thursday to assess the latest evolution in the new coronavirus, which has killed 170 people and spread from China to at least 16 other countries.
The 16 independent experts will decide whether the spread of the virus constitutes an international emergency, something they said was premature when they last met on Jan. 23. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus makes the final call.
Following are things to watch for from a statement and news conference scheduled from 7.30 pm local (1830 GMT):
- Declaration of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern - known as a “PHEIC” in WHO jargon - is rare. Only five have been declared in the past decade: the H1 virus that caused an influenza pandemic (2009), West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, polio (2014), Zika virus (2016), and the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (2019).
- Declaration of a global emergency would include recommendations to all countries aimed at preventing or reducing cross-border spread of disease while avoiding unnecessary interference with trade and travel.
- It would include temporary recommendations for national health authorities worldwide, which could include stepping up their monitoring, preparedness and containment measures.
- Although the WHO has no legal authority to sanction countries, it could ask governments to provide scientific justification for any travel or trade restrictions that they impose in the event of an international emergency.
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Mark John and Hugh Lawson
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