The World Health Organization Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on Thursday 30 January declared the flu-like Coronavirus a global health emergency. Coronavirus, otherwise known as 2019-nCOv, is a new respiratory illness that has not before been seen in humans. Like other Coronaviruses, this one also comes from animals. Many of those now infected worked or shopped in the Huanan seafood wholesale market in Wuhan, China, where the virus is believed to have originated from. The virus emerged Dec 31, and as of 5 February about 18,000 cases have been confirmed internationally, with 3 cases in the UK. The virus spreads even before the infected person shows any symptoms, which usually show after the incubation period of 14 days. The first two cases reported in the UK were a couple in Newcastle, and the latest, on 5 February, was a Briton in Brighton. The UK government has flown and quarantined hundreds from Wuhan at the end of January. 

Talking at the technical briefing on February 4, WHO Director-General Ghebreyesus said: “It’s important to underline that 99% of the cases are in China, and 97% of deaths are in Hubei province. This is still first and foremost an emergency for China.We continue to work closely with the Chinese government to support its efforts to address this outbreak at the epicenter. That is our best chance of preventing a broader global crisis. Of course, the risk of it becoming more widespread globally remains high. Now is the moment for all countries to be preparing themselves. WHO is sending masks, gloves, respirators and almost 18,000 isolation gowns from our warehouses in Dubai and Accra to 24 countries who need support, and we will add more countries.”

Coronavirus is expected to have severe implications worldwide. With economic growth in the first quarter of the year most likely to get hurt, since the virus outbreak coincided with the period for retail sales which was the Chinese New Year, January 25. Wuhan and the Hubei province represents a sizable part of Chinese GDP. An article in Clyde & Co stated that: “The new novel Coronavirus is likely to lead to operational difficulties big and small for businesses in the shipping and trading industry.”

WHO’s strategic objectives for the response to this have been to limit human-to-human transmission, including reducing secondary infections among close contacts and healthcare workers, preventing transmission amplification events, and preventing further international spread from China. The NHS has advised for self-isolation if one feels any of the main symptoms of the illness: fever, cough, shortness of breath, especially if one has had contact with people from Wuhan or mainland China, or was travelling there between December and January when it was announced as a global emergency.