Statement on the meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee regarding the outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

The meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the WHO Director-General under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) regarding the outbreak of novel coronavirus 2019 in the People’s Republic of China, with exportations currently reported in the Republic of Korea, Japan, Thailand and Singapore.

On 23 January, representatives of the Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China, Japan, Thailand and the Republic of Korea updated the committee on the situation in their countries. There have been increased numbers of reported cases in China, with 557 confirmed.

Chinese authorities presented new epidemiological information that revealed an increase in the number of cases, of suspected cases, of affected provinces, and the proportion of deaths in currently reported cases of 4% (17 of 557).

Human-to-human transmission is occurring and a preliminary R0 estimate of 1.4-2.5 was presented. Amplification has occurred in one health care facility. Of confirmed cases, 25% are reported to be severe. The source is still unknown (most likely an animal reservoir) and the extent of human-to-human transmission is still not clear.

Several members considered that it is still too early to declare a PHEIC, given its restrictive and binary nature.

The Committee stands ready to be reconvened in approximately ten days’ time, or earlier should the Director-General deem it necessary. 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.

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