WHO Declares Coronavirus Outbreak A 'Global Pandemic'

Update (1600ET): In case you're wondering why the WHO has treated Beijing with such deference, twitter user @IntelDoge has highlighted what sounds like a reasonable explanation.

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Update ( 1500ET): Dr. Tedros's effusive praise for China has continued, and stocks are loving it. The Director-General said the global-pandemic label doesn't suggest China isn't doing enough to combat the virus. In fact, China is "setting a new standard" for outbreak response, he said.

"It's actually doing more than China is required to do," he added.

Outside China, the WHO has only confirmed 98 cases. He added that he has every confidence in China's ability to control the virus.

And during Tedros's conversation with senior Chinese officials, he said the government offered to even help with containment if the virus spreads to poorer, more vulnerable countries.

When it comes to the WHO's refusal to recommend cutting off passenger travel and trade in goods with China, Tedros said that airlines' decision to suspend service to China is a question of falling demand, not a reflection on the outbreak. Meanwhile, Israel has just become the latest country to bar all flights from China.

He even recommended that other countries display "the same kind of leadership" on virus-outbreak suppression as China. And we suspect he doesn't mean hiding critical information from the outside world until it's too late.

Of course, plenty of reporting on the ground suggests that Wuhan has been transformed into a nightmarish dystopia where extremely ill patients are being turned away from hospitals, and millions of terrified residents have been trapped in their own homes. Hospitals in the city are still struggling with supply shortages, including a shortage of facemasks, beds and testing kits.

But yes, sure - it's a new gold standard for outbreak suppression. Questions from the press were appropriately incredulous, as reporters wheedled Dr. Tedros about his China rhetoric.

The takeaway: The WHO's account of the situation is somewhat less than credible.

Note: A source just reminded us of this story from before Dr. Tedros's time leading the WHO.

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Update (1445ET): After WHO Director Dr. Tedros didn't say the words 'global emergency' in the first two minutes of the WHO's Thursday press conference, stocks jumped, but were quickly stymied when he finally got around to the announce after a lengthy preamble: The WHO has officially declared the coronavirus a ' Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).'

Once again, the director emphasized the fact that there haven't been any recorded deaths outside China, while praising Beijing's response, an obvious attempt to soften the blow.

Now that the label has been invoked, the WHO can begin coordinating a multi-government response.

WHO doesn't recommend any travel or trade restrictions.

And there goes stocks...

Once again, Dr. Tedros stopped to emphasize: This is not a reflection on Beijing's efforts to suppress the virus. It's not a time for judgment, Dr. Tedros insisted. It is a time for action. "This is a time for solidarity, not stigma."

Once again, it sounds like Dr. Tedros really enjoyed his trip to Beijing.

Meanwhile, in China, thousands of villages are setting up check points to stop any outsiders from carrying disease into their town.

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After a brief delay, the WHO is finally ready to hold a press conference to discuss the outcome of its third straight emergency session.

A few hours ago, the CDC confirmed the first case of human-to-human transmission in the US, bringing the total number of countries that have recorded human-to-human cases to four (Germany, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and the US).

The WHO is now widely expected to label the nCoV breakout a global pandemic, potentially triggering another leg lower in stocks.

The press conference which will take place in Geneva, Switzerland, where the organization is based, will be led by Director-General Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus. Many suspect that he will finally acquiesce to labeling the nCoV outbreak a ' Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).'

WHO twice decided against embracing the label last week.