The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the new coronavirus outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
According to reports by the BBC, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the announcement and explained that the declaration was not made based on the situation in China.
"The main reason for this declaration is not because of what is happening in China, but because of what is happening in other countries."
"Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems, and which are ill-prepared to deal with it," said Dr Tedros.
All praise for measures taken by China
Speaking at a press conference in Geneva, Dr Tedros praised China for its speed in detecting the outbreak, isolating the virus and sharing information with WHO and the world.
Dr Tedros added that China was setting a new impressive standard for outbreak response and congratulated the government for the "extraordinary measures" taken.
"Let me be clear, this declaration is not a vote of no confidence in China. On the contrary, WHO continues to have confidence in China’s capacity to control the outbreak," he said.
Seven key areas were highlighted
Dr Tedros later summarised recommendations made by the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on the novel coronavirus. Seven main areas were highlighted.
1. No reason for measures to be taken to unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade. WHO doesn't recommend limiting trade and movement.
2. Support must be given to countries with weaker health systems.
3. Development of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics must be accelerated.
4. Combat the spread of rumours and misinformation.
5. Review preparedness plans, identify gaps and evaluate the resources needed to identify, isolate and care for cases, and prevent transmission.
6. Share data, knowledge and experience with WHO and the world.
7. All countries to work together in a spirit of solidarity and cooperation.
A time for all to stand together
Dr Tedros ended his statement with a call for everyone to unite against the virus.
"This is the time for facts, not fear. This is the time for science, not rumours. This is the time for solidarity, not stigma," he said.
More than 7,000 people have been confirmed to have been infected with the virus to date with the death toll standing at 170 in China.
98 have been confirmed in countries outside China but no deaths so far.