Jan. 31, 2020

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the novel coronavirus infection a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), as China reported that death toll had climbed to 213 with nearly 10,000 infections.


  • Criteria followed by WHO to declare PHEIC: A public health emergency is defined as “an extraordinary event which is determined:
    • to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease; and

    • to potentially require a coordinated international response”.

  • Declared by whom: The responsibility of declaring an event as an emergency lies with the Director-General of the WHO.

  • Past incidence: In the past decade, WHO has declared public health emergencies for outbreaks including swine flu, polio and Ebola.

  • Implications of a PHEIC being declared: Declaring a PHEIC may lead to restrictions on travel and trade for the host country, which in the case of the coronavirus is China.