“No Time to Lose”; Georgetown Global Health Experts React to PHEIC Declaration

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Media Contact

Karen Teber

WASHINGTON (January 30, 2020) This afternoon, World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on the recommendation of the Emergency Committee, declared the 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease outbreak that began in Wuhan, China, a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

Georgetown University global health security expert Rebecca Katz, PhD, MPH, and global health law experts Lawrence Gostin, JD, and Alexandra Phelan, SJD, LLM, LLB, applaud the decision:

This is the right decision, right now. The emerging novel coronavirus meets all of the criteria for a public health emergency of international concern. It is important for the WHO to signal growing concern to the international community, and take a strong leadership position to coordinate the dissemination of evidence and response. This is particularly important in light of countries making unilateral decisions to close borders. We should expect more guidance on travel as the outbreak progresses.”  Rebecca Katz, PhD, MPH, is professor and director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University. Follow her on Twitter @RebeccaKatz5.

“Today’s PHEIC declaration is a call to countries globally for international cooperation. All countries must follow the WHO Director-General’s temporary recommendations issued today to prepare for and respond to the novel coronavirus. We will only stop this outbreak using evidence-based public health measures and public trust. This means complying with international obligations to ensure transparency, protect human rights, and avoid detrimental travel restrictions.” Alexandra Phelan, SJD, LLM, LLB is a faculty member of Georgetown’s Center for Global Health Science and Security and is an adjunct professor at Georgetown Law. Follow her on Twitter @AlexandraPhelan.

“I applaud Dr. Tedros for declaring a PHEIC. Now, there is no time to lose. The WHO should urgently create a Global Action Plan that lives up to the three essential values of the International Health Regulations: public health, human rights, and international trade and travel. The action plan should mobilize billions of dollars for a surge public health response; rapid vaccine development; and protection of human rights. If we join together as a global community with shared purpose and resolve, we can successfully contain this global health threat.” — Lawrence Gostin, JD, is faculty director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law.

Earlier today, Phelan, Katz and Gostin published their call for a “Global Action Plan” in an online Viewpoint in JAMA. The Georgetown trio, who have worked on and studied global health governance for large outbreaks including SARS, Ebola and Zika, say employing traditional public health strategies to manage the outbreak requires international cooperation and solidarity.

To arrange an interview with any of the professors above, please contact Karen Teber at km463@georgetown.edu (new window).