WHO declaration on Corona virus a PHEIC
Baljit Dhaka

WHO declaration on Corona virus a PHEIC

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WHO declaration on Coronavirus a PHEIC

Why in the News ?

  • The second 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 to other countries, took place on Thursday, 30 January 2020. It declared coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern(PHEIC).
  • This second meeting takes place given significant increases in numbers of cases and additional countries reporting confirmed cases.


  • The novel coronavirus (a new strain of coronavirus which has not been previously identified in human beings) is one among a large family of coronaviruses that can cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to the more serious Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
  • The source of the novel coronavirus is not yet known and there is no treatment for it so far.

What is a public health emergency of international concern?

  • Some serious public health events that endanger international public health may be determined under the Regulations to be public health emergencies of international concern (PHEIC).
  • The term Public Health Emergency of International Concern is defined in the International Health Regulations(IHR) (2005) as “an extraordinary event which is determined, as provided in these Regulations:
  • to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease, and
  • to potentially require a coordinated international response”. This definition implies a situation that: is serious, unusual, or unexpected; carries implications for public health beyond the affected State’s national border; may require immediate international action.
  • The responsibility of determining whether an event is within this category lies with the WHO Director-General and requires the convening of a committee of experts – the IHR Emergency Committee.


  • Declaring the coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern would allow WHO to better coordinate the international response and hold nations to account if they overstep the organization’s standards— which may pertain to travel, trade, quarantine, or screening.

Previously declared five global public health emergencies:

  • Swine flu, 2009 -The H1N1 virus spread across the world in 2009, killing more than 200,000 people
  • Polio, 2014 - Although closer than ever to eradication in 2012, polio numbers rose in 2013
  • Zika, 2016 - The WHO declared Zika a public health emergency in 2016 after the disease spread rapidly through the Americas
  • Ebola, 2014 and 2019 - The first emergency over the virus lasted from August 2014 to March 2016 as almost 30,000 people were infected and more than 11,000 died in West Africa. A second emergency was declared last year as an outbreak spread in DR Congo.