Jan. 21 (EIRNS)—The World Health Organization (WHO) will meet tomorrow to determine whether the outbreak of the 2019-nCoV novel coronavirus, which first emerged in Wuhan, China, constitutes a global health emergency.
There are now 324 confirmed cases of the virus in China and 6 deaths, as of this writing; a few isolated cases are reported in Thailand, South Korea, and Japan. Two patients in the Philippines and Australia have shown symptoms of the virus and are being monitored, and the first case in the U.S. was identified in Seattle, in a man who had traveled from Wuhan. China’s National Health Commission confirmed human-to-human transmission.
China is responding to the outbreak very seriously. Yesterday, Xinhua reported, President Xi Jinping called for “maximum effort” to contain the virus. Premier Li Keqiang emphasized that “no effort should be spared” in controlling and preventing the virus, and urged coordination among Beijing, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao to prevent the virus’s spread.
Malicious media coverage is suggesting that China may attempt a cover-up, recalling the way it handled the 2002-2003 epidemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). China’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission has warned against any failure to report cases. Nonetheless, Peter Cordingley, who served as WHO spokesman during the SARS crisis, charged yesterday that Beijing has been “lying about the spread of the Wuhan flu virus since the start,” South China Morning Post reported him as saying.
There is great concern over the fact that as of Jan. 24, millions of Chinese—as many as 400 million—will begin traveling to meet with family and friends to celebrate the Lunar New Year. There has been no indication that travel will be canceled, and a range of preventive measures are being put in place to protect travelers and those they come into contact with. The novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV is considered to be less virulent than SARS, which is also a coronavirus, and those most severely affected tend to be people who are already in poor health. Nonetheless, according to Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “This is an evolving situation and … we do expect additional cases in the United States and globally,” the Washington Post reported.