Coronavirus comment on PHEIC declaration and UK cases - expert reaction

Professors Peter Piot and John Edmunds respond to the World Health Organization's declaration of the outbreak of 2019-nCoV as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, and the first two UK cases of the virus.

Peter Piot, Professor of Global Health and Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said:

“I welcome the World Health Organization’s (WHO) decision to declare the coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). The global response is at a critical stage, and it is important to note that many countries did not wait for this declaration to take bold action. The delay from the WHO in sounding the global alarm illustrates the need to reform the all-or-nothing approach to declaring a PHEIC. In every emergency, there is a spectrum of alert levels, it should not be a binary decision.

“This announcement should not be cause for panic, but a call for action to increase resources and funding towards controlling this outbreak. The month ahead will be critical in illuminating its scale as there are still gaps in our knowledge about the virus which we are working to fill. Researchers at LSHTM have developed models to predict the spread of the virus and the effectiveness of airport screening, our African MRC Units are actively involved in planning should the outbreak reach the continent, and we are providing expert guidance to those responding around the globe through the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team led by LSHTM and Public Health England. International collaboration between researchers and decision-makers of the global health community is more important than ever to stopping further spread.”

Commenting on the first UK cases, John Edmunds, Professor of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said:

“This event, whilst unwelcome, is not surprising. However, the UK authorities have been preparing for this for some time, as it seems as if appropriate measures are being taken to limit onward spread.”

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