The World Health Organization has declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency, officials announced Thursday.
The announcement comes as the outbreak has grown to include more than 7,800 cases of people infected with the 2019-nCoV virus worldwide, with 98 cases in 18 nations or territories outside of China. So far the virus has killed 170 people, all in China.
“I’m declaring a public health emergency of international concern over the novel coronavirus,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The declaration was not intended as a vote of no-confidence in China’s response to the outbreak, including a travel ban on 50 million people in the epicenter of the outbreak, said Tedros, but to assist smaller countries with less robust public health systems to forestall new beachheads of infection. No restrictions on travel or trade should result from the declaration, he said.