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GENEVA — The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency and at the same time notes that China is setting a “new standard for outbreak response.”
Speaking in Geneva on Jan. 30 following a meeting of the WHO’s emergency committee, WHO’s Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said that over the past few weeks, “we have witnessed the emergence of a previously unknown pathogen, which has escalated into an unprecedented outbreak, and which has been met by an unprecedented response.”
He added: “The speed with which China detected the outbreak, isolated the virus, sequenced the genome and shared it with WHO and the world are very impressive, and beyond words. So is China’s commitment to transparency and to supporting other countries. In many ways, China is actually setting a new standard for outbreak response. It’s not an exaggeration.”
The Director-General noted that he was declaring the public health emergency of international concern not because of what is happening in China, “but because of what is happening in other countries” adding that WHO’s greatest concern is “the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems, and which are ill-prepared to deal with it.”
Speaking to the people of China and to all of those around the world who have been affected by this outbreak, Tedros said, “the world stands with you.” He stressed that WHO is working “diligently with national and international public health partners to bring this outbreak under control as fast as possible.”
Meanwhile Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government is going through a “deliberate process” to airlift nearly 200 Canadians out of the epicentre of the outbreak of a novel coronavirus.
Trudeau says the government is doing what it has to do to ensure the risk to Canadians at home remains low.
Canada is seeking Chinese approval to send a plane to the city of Wuhan to collect the 196 Canadians who have asked for help to leave.
Trudeau says the government is co-ordinating evacuation efforts with other countries.
Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne commended the Chinese government for its “fact-based response” to the crisis.
With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press