More than 8,000 secured cases in more than 20 countries, almost
200 dead: The new corona virus 2019-nCov has long since become an international one
Become a problem. But is the outbreak officially an international one
Health emergency? To decide that, a panel of the World Health Organization had to
WHO ask the following questions today:
- The coronavirus outbreak is exceptional
- Does it pose a health risk to people in other countries?
- Does he need a coordinated international
Like most experts, the WHO Panel believed
that all of these questions must be answered yes and called the state of emergency
out. The amazing thing is that the decision made everything else to the panel
than easy. Only at the second attempt and after long discussions did the Director General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, decide to do so. Why only hesitation? Why did the decision become a political issue, and what does this emergency actually mean?
To clear up a misunderstanding first: The
The WHO decision is not a risk assessment. That the WHO now
Health emergencies are not because they are the new coronavirus
considers more dangerous than on January 22nd, when a first emergency meeting took place.
The novel corona virus worried researchers right from the start. Since January 13th
there are cases outside of China. We now know that the virus has been around for a long time
Human to human transmission, probably since mid-December (New
England Journal of Medicine: Li et al., 2020).
The virus has not suddenly become more dangerous just because of the WHO
Calling out a health emergency serves something different:
Very simply, it means that WHO has more powers. She advises
not the countries affected as usual, but begins health
Coordinate measures. Due to the emergency "competences to the WHO and
the international community, "explains Maike Voss, who works at the Science and Politics Foundation on global health issues.
So when the state of emergency is declared, countries have to justify what they do in terms of health
to do. China could now be within
48 hours to explain what it makes sense for the health of the population
Quarantine entire cities. The same applies when countries have borders
close or stop trading. So – that's the idea behind that too
International health emergency – to ensure that food
or medication continues to get to affected areas.
The declaration of a health emergency is not a silver bullet, medical lawyers write in an article published today (Jama: Phelan et al., 2020). But it is a "strong signal to the international community". The WHO Director General and many experts hope that the decision will also benefit countries with weaker health systems if they get the coronavirus.
On top of that, the emergency is also an intervention
into the sovereignty of a state and thus always a political issue. In the case of
Coronavirus 2019-nCoV in China is even highly political. China has tried with the
massive containment measures to show the world that it has the emergency under control
said Maike Voss: "Health protection is also always a sign
political assertiveness. "China wanted to show the world that none
Help is needed. In a phase in which there is a trade conflict with the United States and with
the new Silk Road Initiative its economic strength all over the world
shows, it doesn't want to show weakness.
There is also something else: in the past
the health emergency is often proclaimed in situations in which the affected
Territories and countries desperately needed money and help, such as that democratic
Republic of the Congo in the fight against Ebola, Or because more urgent research has been done on a pathogen
the Zika virus in 2016, for example. But both of these are true
the coronavirus outbreak rather not: China demonstrates that it is also with
own efforts to fight the outbreak very far. And researchers
Worldwide, there has been immense amounts of data about the virus in recent weeks
collected and shared with the WHO.
WHO Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, should
Against the background of all this, he was torn: From a purely legal point of view, he probably had to declare a health emergency. On the other hand, the
A state of emergency – so the fear of some – is such an important cooperation with the Chinese government
jeopardize the previously apparently willing data and laboratory samples with the
WHO and other countries shared. A collaboration that Ghebreyesus with his
Visit to China and talks with head of state Xi Jinping in the
wanted to reaffirm the past few days.
And so it fits that Ghebreyesus after the last emergency meeting
said he was bothered by the question of emergency just
Give yes or no and nothing in between, And that he said twice in today's press conference that the declaration was "not a vote of no confidence in China". It was the politician Ghebreyesus,
who emphasized this – in a situation in which it was clear: Health can also be
very political issue.
You can find all the reports on the corona virus on our topic page.