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Update:

COVID-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins CSSE

Confirmed Coronavirus Cases and Deaths by Country and Territory

Related links:

COVID-19 wikiquote

Why is COVID-19 prioritized over other infectious diseases?

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak - WHO


On 2020.01.30, the Director-General of Emergency Committee convened by the WHO declared that the outbreak of 2019-nCoV (2019 Novel Coronavirus) constitutes a PHEIC (Public Health Emergency of International Concern).

Actions by country/region:

Hong Kong declares coronavirus emergency. (2020.01.25)

Italy declares state of emergency over coronavirus. (2020.01.31)

U.S.A declared a public health emergency (PHE). (2020.01.31)

South Korea raised threat alert to the highest level. (2020.02.23)

Some provinces of China lower emergency response as epidemic slows. (2020.02.26)

My question:

What are the consequences of PHEIC, to China and to other countries?


  • 2
    Welcome to Politics.SE! There is a valid question somewhere in this, but predictions for future events are off topic. – CDJB Jan 31 at 8:05
  • What does 2019-nCov mean exactly? Must be an abbreviation. – Trilarion Jan 31 at 20:59
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    @Trilarion It means 2019 Novel Coronavirus. – user25164 Feb 1 at 0:45
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tl;dr: There aren't any tangible consequences, unless China or other countries decide to take any.


The World Health Organization is an agency of the United Nations. But it does not have any legislative powers. Its activities are limited to spending its budget on funding health-related research, spreading health information and funding healthcare projects which operate within the legal framework of the countries they operate in.

It might advise governments to take actions, like for example fund healthcare measures, discourage/promote products depending on their health impact, enact quarantines or discourage/promote certain medical procedures. But it does not have the authority to enforce any of those measures themselves.

Now what exactly does it mean that the WHO declares a public health emergency of international concern? It is basically just a declaration, stating that the WHO believes that this is a problem people should take seriously. The WHO has done that 5 times before, each time in case of a global outbreak of an acute infectious disease:

  • 2009 (Swine Flu)
  • 2014 (Polio)
  • 2014 (Ebola)
  • 2016 (Zika)
  • 2019 (Kivu Ebola)
  • Thanks for your answer. Actually, I'm more curious about what potential actions other countries might take and (political/economial/...) consequences of them, like trade/travel caution. I know predictions for future events are off topic, but we can deduce other countries' actions from former similar cases. – user25164 Jan 31 at 12:47
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    I briefly caught a short news item this morning. It claimed that the announcement meant certain UN agencies,funds, and resources would thus be available for other countries. And that the main reason for the announcement was to assist countries other than China in coping. But I have no citation or additional material. – puppetsock Jan 31 at 14:26
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    Doesn't it also open a few pots of money for countries that need it? My understanding was that this was the main driver (besides the heads up) behind the decision. – Denis de Bernardy Feb 2 at 21:24
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It could provide cover/justification for both inter-national and intra-national emergency measures, such as quarantines, enforced confinements and travel restrictions.

For example, let's take the court challenges to the Trump administration early Muslim visa bans. A similar hearing, not necessarily in the US, held to decide on the legality of a travel ban from China, would have information available that indicated that the issue was generally considered to be a problem by medical professionals, not just by the administration.

Italy has just declared some level of regional quarantines. Legal challenges to this decision by affected individuals would likely be affected by the WHO's declaration.

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