Coronavirus outbreak declared global health emergency
The World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) declared that the coronavirus a global health emergency on Friday, as it swept through at least 18 countries.
W.H.O. chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised the "extraordinary measures" undertaken by Chinese authorities who had taken to the streets to prevent the virus from spreading. He clarified that the declaration is not a vote of no confidence in China.
He said a widespread fear among health authorities is that the virus could spread to other nations around the world with weaker health systems and requires a coordinated international response.
W.H.O. said the virus had 98 confirmed cases in 18 countries outside of China, but no deaths had been recorded outside the country. Scientists are researching exactly how the virus is spreading and its severity. .
The novel coronavirus was first brought to the U.N. health agency's attention in late December. More than 7,800 cases and 170 deaths have since been recorded.
A declaration of a global emergency typically brings greater money and resources, but may also prompt nervous governments to restrict travel and trade to affected countries. The announcement also imposes more disease reporting requirements on countries.
Most cases reported emerged in people who have travelled from the city of Wuhan, where the outbreak began. However, there have also been cases of human-to-human infection reported.
Dr. Tedros defined the virus as an "unprecedented outbreak" that has been met with an "unprecedented response".
He also said that there is no reason to limit international trade or travel to China, during the press conference.
Nonetheless various countries have taken steps to close borders. This includes Samoa as the Government tries to limit travelers coming in who have been exposed to countries with confirmed cases.
Travelers are required to get a medical clearance at least three days before their arrival at the Faleolo Airport or wharf to confirm they are clear of any infectious disease.
The Ministry of Health began screening passengers arriving for symptoms of the novel coronavirus 209-nCoV with staff on site since last week.
However, a Samoan Community leader has said it has caused confusion and costs of getting a medical clearance was forcing many people to cancel their travel plans as reported by Radio New Zealand.
But Samoa is not the only one taking extra precautions, American Samoa's Governor has extended a state of emergency in force in response to the growing fears regarding the coronavirus outbreak, despite having no confirmed cases.
All foreign travelers, except for Samoa passport holders, must enter American Samoa through Hawai'i and must spend 14 days in Hawaii before entering the territory.