Story at a glance

  • The correction of the global risk assessment does not mean an international health emergency has been declared.
  • The WHO made the correction in a report released Monday.
  • Officials have declined to declare a public health emergency at this time as the outbreak sweeps through China.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday the global risk from the deadly coronavirus was “high,” admitting it made a mistake in previous reports that rated the risk of the virus as “moderate.” 

The United Nations health body said in a situation report published Sunday that the risk was “very high in China, high at the regional level and high at the global level,” and explained in a footnote there had been an error in reports published Thursday, Friday and Saturday which incorrectly said the global risk was “moderate.” 

WHO last week decided not to declare the virus an international public health emergency. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday, “This is an emergency in China, but it has not yet become a global health emergency.” 

The agency noted that the mistake made in three of its situation reports was the result of an “error in the wording.” 

So far, at least 106 people are dead and more than 4,600 cases of the Wuhan coronavirus have been confirmed in mainland China, as nearly 60 million people are under partial or full lockdowns in Chinese cities. 

Outside of China, there are more than 70 confirmed cases in 17 places, including at least five in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also raised its travel precautions for China to its highest level, and the U.S. has expanded screenings of the virus to 20 airports. At least 110 U.S. citizens are being closely monitored for symptoms of the virus. 

Ghebreyesus is visiting China this week to discuss ways of containing the outbreak and said the designation of the situation could be changed at any moment. 

Published on Jan 28, 2020