When WHO understates coronavirus risk, you know China’s geopolitics is at play

There is something a little puzzling about the international response to the Wuhan novel coronavirus – nCoV-2019 – outbreak: the actions taken by the United States, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and other countries exceed what the World Health Organization has recommended. Is the WHO underplaying the risks of a global epidemic or are these countries over-reacting?

The WHO has declared the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), which under International Health Regulations is “an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response”. It implies that there is a risk of trans-border spread of a disease necessitating international coordination. Such a declaration obliges all countries to take appropriate countermeasures and share outbreak-related information with the WHO on a regular basis.

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