By Siouxsie Wiles 01/02/2020


With reports that someone in Auckland is being tested for the novel coronavirus, and the WHO declaring the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern here’s my first round-up of some of the week’s coronavirus-related news.

New Zealand’s first case?

Update 02/02/2020: Test came back negative. Also in the RNZ report is the information that so far 6 people have been tested and all have come back negative.

The NZ Herald reported on Friday that someone with suspected coronavirus infection is in isolation in Auckland Hospital. Test results are due soon.

It’s worth noting that the US CDC has reported that as of the 31st January it has tested 241 people for coronavirus infection. So far 6 people have tested positive and 114 people have tested negative. The results of the remaining 121 are pending. Given it is winter and so flu season in the northern hemisphere, it’s not surprising that many people with flu-like symptoms don’t have coronavirus.

Online outbreak-tracker

As I’m writing this on Saturday the 1st February, there have been 11,374 coronavirus cases with 259 deaths. 11,221 of these cases and all deaths have been in China.

If you want to keep track of the numbers of reported coronavirus cases and deaths, check out this incredible online dashboard which is being regularly updated. The dashboard has been developed by the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE), spearheaded by the centre’s co-director Associate Professor Lauren Gardner.

Global spread

According to the Hopkins CSSE outbreak-tracker, cases of the 2019 coronavirus have now been identified in 25 other countries. The numbers of cases in these countries are very low (less than 20, with most being less than 5). There is no reason at this time for people to be worried about travelling to these other countries.

WHO declares the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern

WHO’s Emergency Committee met on Thursday the 30th January at 1:30pm Geneva time. They advised the Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to declare the coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

This is a formal declaration by the WHO that the outbreak constitutes a health risk and may require an international coordinated response to deal with. Under the 2005 International Health Regulations, when a Public Health Emergency of International Concern has been declared, countries have a legal duty to share information with the WHO. The WHO warned countries not to take any actions that promote stigma or discrimination.

In the media briefing announcing the declaration, Dr Ghebreyesus was very clear in his praise for how the Chinese were handling the outbreak and sharing information. He also explained how his main concern is that the virus will spread to countries that do not have the health infrastructure to cope with such an outbreak.