The World Health Organisation yesterday declared an international emergency over the deadly novel coronavirus from China — a rarely used designation that could lead to improved international co-ordination in tackling the disease.

“Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems,” World Health Organization Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said as he declared a “public health emergency of international concern”.

“This is not a vote of no confidence in China,” he said, emphasising repeatedly that the measure was intended to help other countries less able to cope and praising the Chinese government for taking swift action to tackle the outbreak. “We must all act together now to limit further spread…. We can only stop it together,” said Tedros, who travelled to China this week and met with President Xi Jinping.

Over 7,700 people have been infected with the virus — almost all of them in China — and 170 have died. The WHO said there had also been 82 confirmed cases in 18 other countries, including cases of onward transmission in Germany, Japan, the United States and Vietnam.

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