January 30 coronavirus news

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10:07 p.m. ET, January 29, 2020

WHO: "The whole world needs to be on alert"

World Health Organization Health Emergencies Program head Michael Ryan
World Health Organization Health Emergencies Program head Michael Ryan Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to rise, the head of the World Health Organization's Health Emergencies Programme Michael Ryan has said, "The whole world needs to be on alert now."

"The whole world needs to take action and be ready for any cases that come, either from the original epicenter or from other epicenters that become established," Ryan told reporters Wednesday.

His comments come as the WHO will reconvene an emergency committee on Thursday to advise the agency on whether the coronavirus outbreak meets the definition of a public health emergency of international concern, the agency announced.

WHO leadership called the committee back together due to the "potential for a much larger outbreak," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Ghebreyesus said that, while nearly 99% of cases have occurred in China, cases of person-to-person transmission in a handful of other countries have become a cause for concern.

Last week, the organization said the virus was an emergency in China, but does not yet constitute an international public health emergency.

Still, in daily situation reports, the WHO has listed its risk assessment as "very high in China, high at the regional level and high at the global level."

Ryan said that many countries are taking action at borders and around travel — and one advantage of declaring an emergency is the ability to better coordinate the global response.

 "One hundred ninety-four countries implementing unilateral measures based on their own individual risk assessment is a potential recipe for disaster at least politically, economically and socially," Ryan said. "So ensuring that all measures that are being taken that affect travel, trade and economy are based on rational public health evidence is very important."

9:48 p.m. ET, January 29, 2020

China should respect rights in coronavirus response: HRW

Children wearing protective facemasks to help stop the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus play soccer inside a condominium complex in Beijing.
Children wearing protective facemasks to help stop the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus play soccer inside a condominium complex in Beijing.  Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images

International rights group Human Rights Watch has said the Chinese government should ensure that human rights are protected while responding to the coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement, the rights group said that the government's initial response to the outbreak was "delayed by withholding information from the public, underreporting cases of infection, downplaying the severity of the infection, and dismissing the likelihood of transmission between humans."

But since mid-January, China ramped up its response as the number of confirmed cases of the virus drastically increased. Almost 60 million people are living under a full or partial lockdown in Hubei province -- where the outbreak originated.

"In addition, authorities have detained people for 'rumor-mongering,' censored online discussions of the epidemic, curbed media reporting, and failed to ensure appropriate access to medical care for those with virus symptoms and others with medical needs," the statement said.

The coronavirus outbreak requires a swift and comprehensive response that respects human rights,” said Yaqiu Wang, China researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Authorities should recognize that censorship only fuels public distrust, and instead encourage civil society engagement and media reporting on this public health crisis.”
9:34 p.m. ET, January 29, 2020

Here's the latest on the Wuhan coronavirus

The coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December and it has now spread across the globe.

Today, Chinese authorities are trying to contain the outbreak while other countries evacuate their citizens from Wuhan. At the same time, scientists are racing to learn more about the virus and develop a vaccine.

Here are the latest updates:

  • The numbers: In China, 170 people have died and there are at least 7,711 confirmed cases in the country -- surpassing the number of Chinese SARS cases during the deadly 2003 outbreak.
  • It's everywhere in China: Tibet, previously the last uninfected region of mainland China, announced its first confirmed case today.
  • Global spread: Outside mainland China, at least 91 cases have been reported in 19 other places. The United Arab Emirates and Finland confirmed their first cases yesterday.
  • Evacuations: The US and Japan have already retrieved some of their citizens from Wuhan. Other countries such as Australia, France, India, South Korea and the UK are also preparing evacuation plans for their citizens in the city. Some of those planned departures have been delayed.
  • Businesses react: Several airline companies, including Delta have reduced their flights to China. Meanwhile IKEA said it will temporarily close around half their stores on the mainland and Google said it would temporarily close its four offices in China.