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The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released detailed recommendations to help employers maintain acceptable indoor environmental quality (IEQ) and reduce exposures to dusts, gases, and contaminants during construction and renovation projects.

The institute has conducted several health hazard evaluations (HHEs) at worksites where health concerns were reported at building and renovation projects in occupied buildings. NIOSH investigators who conducted the HHEs identified issues that could affect IEQ, such as a lack of dust control, limited communication with occupants about hazards related to the work being done, and the use of high-emissions building materials.

Construction, demolition, renovation, or repair projects sometimes involve tasks that can release airborne dusts, gases, organic vapors, microbiological contaminants, and odors or produce high levels of noise.

Building occupants may report symptoms during these projects such as congestion, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, nausea, and sinus problems, as well as irritation of the eyes, nose, or throat.

Workers in spaces adjacent to these construction projects also have reported health complaints. Such symptoms may result from exposures to known agents or a perceived risk from exposure to unknown agents, according to environmental and occupational health researchers.

However, they also found that exposures to construction materials, dampness, and mold can be linked to asthma and asthma-like symptoms.

Employers at worksites in occupied buildings can reduce and control exposures for workers and building occupants with a number of methods, including:

- Ensuring that contractors on construction and renovation projects understand and are aware of the potential impact of construction and renovation activities on building occupants;
- Anticipating construction and renovation activities that may generate contaminants; and
- Implementing controls to minimize exposures of both construction workers and building occupants.

NIOSH examined instances that included an office building undergoing a multiyear modernization project and a school that had undergone renovations that included the addition of administrative space, classrooms, and a library, as well as communications systems, electrical wiring, plumbing, and ventilation systems.

NIOSH developed recommendations for maintaining acceptable IEQ during construction and renovation projects based on its experiences from IEQ site visits and a review of the scientific literature.

Employers need to seek input from building managers, engineers, the general contractor, and subcontractors, as well as building occupants, to maintain acceptable IEQ during construction and renovation activities.

There also are federal regulations and standards for certain exposures, such as:

- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) standards for asbestos and lead;
- The EPA’s Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) regulations for school-building demolition and renovation projects; and
- The EPA’s Asbestos National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP).

NIOSH’s recommendations include guidance for initial planning; contract bid specifications; control options for specific tasks and building configurations; protections for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems; project specifications; good work practices; means of effective communications; and steps to take once projects are completed.

Employers also can find guidance in industry best practices from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association, the institute noted.




CDC is closely monitoring an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and which continues to expand. On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization named the disease coronavirus disease 2019 (abbreviated “COVID-19”).

Chinese health officials have reported tens of thousands of cases of COVID-19 in China, with the virus reportedly spreading from person-to-person in parts of that country. COVID-19 illnesses, most of them associated with travel from Wuhan, also are being reported in a growing number of international locations, including the United States. Some person-to-person spread of this virus outside China has been detected. The United States reported the first confirmed instance of person-to-person spread with this virus on January 30, 2020.

On January 30, 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concernexternal icon” (PHEIC). On January 31, 2020, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency (PHE) for the United States to aid the nation’s healthcare community in responding to COVID-19. Also on January 31, the President of the United States signed a presidential “Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirusexternal icon.” These measures were announced at a press briefing by members of the President’s Coronavirus Task Forceexternal icon.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS, SARS, and now with this new virus (named SARS-COV2).

Source and Spread of the Virus

Chinese health authorities were the first to post the full genome of the SARS-COV2 virus in GenBankexternal icon, the NIH genetic sequence database, and in the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAIDexternal icon) portal, an action which has facilitated detection of this virus. CDC is posting the full genome of the SARS-COV2 viruses detected in U.S. patients to GenBank as sequencing is completed.

The SARS-COV2 virus is a betacoronavirus, like MERS and SARs, both of which have their origins in bats. The sequences from U.S. patients are similar to the one that China initially posted, suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir.

Early on, many of the patients in the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread. Chinese officials report that sustained person-to-person spread in the community is occurring in China. Person-to-person spread has been reported outside China, including in the United States and other countries. Learn what is known about the spread of newly emerged coronaviruses.

Situation in U.S.

Imported cases of COVID-19 in travelers have been detected in the U.S. Person-to-person spread of COVID-19 also has been seen among close contacts of returned travelers from Wuhan, but at this time, this virus is NOT currently spreading in the community in the United States.

The U.S. government has taken unprecedented stepsexternal icon related to travel in response to the growing public health threat posed by this new coronavirus, including suspending entry in the United States of foreign nationals who have visited China within the past 14 days. Measures monitor the health of those who are allowed entry into the United States (U.S. citizens, residents and family) who have been in China within 14 days also are being implemented.

Illness Severity

Both MERS and SARS have been known to cause severe illness in people. The complete clinical picture with regard to COVID-19 is not fully understood. Reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, including resulting in death. Learn more about the symptoms associated with COVID-19.

There are ongoing investigations to learn more. This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.

Risk Assessment

Outbreaks of novel virus infections among people are always of public health concern. The risk from these outbreaks depends on characteristics of the virus, including how well it spreads between people, the severity of resulting illness, and the medical or other measures available to control the impact of the virus (for example, vaccine or treatment medications).

The potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 virus is high, both globally and to the United States. The fact that this virus has caused illness, including illness resulting in death, and sustained person-to-person spread in China is concerning. These factors meet two of the criteria of a pandemic. It’s unclear how the situation will unfold, but risk is dependent on exposure. At this time, some people will have an increased risk of infection, for example healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 and other close contacts of patients with COVID-19. For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low at this time.

What to Expect

More cases are likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States. It’s also likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur, including in the United States.


No, a regular surgical mask will not help you steer clear of the virus.

Can wearing a medical face mask protect you against the new coronavirus? It's a question many people, including pet owners who are putting canine face masks on their dogs, are asking.

If it's a regular surgical face mask, the answer is "no," Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, told Live Science.

A more specialized mask, known as an N95 respirator, can protect against the new coronavirus, also called 2019-nCoV. The respirator is thicker than a surgical mask, but Schaffner doesn't recommend it for public use, at least not at this point.

That's because, in part, it's challenging to put these masks on and wear them for long periods of time, he said.

Specialists receive retraining annually on how to properly fit these respirators around the nose, cheeks and chin, ensuring that wearers don't breathe around the edges of the respirator. "When you do that, it turns out that the work of breathing, since you're going through a very thick material, is harder. You have to work to breathe in and out. It's a bit claustrophobic. It can get moist and hot in there," Schaffner said.

"I know that I can wear them when I need to for about a half-hour," he added. "But then I have to go out of the isolation room, take it off and take some deep breaths, kind of cool off, before I can go back in."

While it is possible to buy the N95 respirator online, Schaffner advised against it. For one thing, there are just seven cases of coronavirus in the United States at this point. Meanwhile, influenza will infect, hospitalize and even kill thousands upon thousands of Americans this year, but most people aren't thinking of taking the same precautions for that illness, he said. Furthermore, while there is no shortage of the respirators now, there could be if too many people unnecessarily buy one, Schaffner said.

Surgical masks

The thinner surgical mask is intended for surgeons, because these products do a good job of keeping pathogens from the doctor's nose and mouth from entering the surgical field, Schaffner said.

In some Asian countries, such as Japan and China, it's not uncommon to see people wearing surgical masks in public to protect against pathogens and pollution. But those masks don't help much in the context of a virus, Schaffner said. "They're not designed to keep out viral particles, and they're not nearly as tightly fitted around your nose and cheeks," as an N95 respirator, he said.

"Could they be of some use? Yes, but the effect is likely to be modest," Schaffner said.

He noted that some people wear surgical masks because they are sick with a cold or the flu and they don't want to get other people sick. But if you're sick, it's best just not to go to public areas. "That's the time to stay home," Schaffner said.

A better way to avoid getting the coronavirus is to, first and foremost, postpone any travel to China, where the virus originated and has infected more than 11,000 people, according to The Washington Post. You can also thoroughly wash your hands; avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands; avoid close contact with people who are sick; and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

As for pet owners putting face masks on their dogs, there's no evidence that dogs can even catch the coronavirus, so "you don't need to do that," Schaffner said.


Dust masks are very commonly used for protecting the workers against powders and dust in many different industries like pharmaceutical, construction, quarrying, agriculture, foundries, architectural masonry, and recycling.

But the key to proper protection is in selecting the right dust mask. Irrespective of how good the dust masks and respirators are made, they are unable to filter out the hazards that they’re not designed for.

To make the selection easier, the masks are divided into different ratings based on the levels of protection they offer and the type of environment they’re suitable for. Every mask type specifies its APF (Assumed Protection Factor) and OEL (Occupational Exposure Limit).

While there are many different types of ratings for half-face or disposable dust masks, P1, P2, and P3 ratings are the most popular. Continue reading to know the difference between these three types of dust masks.

P1 Dust Masks

The P1 masks are recommended for workplaces with low levels of dust, like places where hand sanding, cutting, and drilling is done. These masks are able to protect the users from liquid and solid aerosols. The OEL and APF of P1 masks are 4x which means that they can protect against dust in 4x limit concentration.

P2 Dust Mask

As compared to P1 masks, P2 masks offer higher protection. They are ideal for workplaces which involves sanding and plastering with moderate dust levels. Like P1 masks, the P2 masks can also protect against liquid and solid aerosols. The OEL of P2 masks is 12x while the APF is 10x.

P3 Dust Mask

P3 dust mask offers higher protection than the P2 and P1 mask and is used in workplaces with a higher concentration of dust. Workers who handle hazardous powders like the ones that are used in the pharmaceutical industry generally use P3 masks. They’re also recommended for workplaces where the workplace hazard is not correctly known. Their OEL is 50x and APF is 20x.

Selecting the Right Dust Mask

It is the responsibility of the employer to identify the hazards of the workplace and provide adequate PPE to the workers. Once the contaminant exposure and airborne hazards of a workplace are known, the selection of the dust mask can be done on the basis of their ratings.

When selecting the mask, ensure that you select the ones that are convenient to wear and comfortable. Make sure that you check their OEL as it is the maximum limit up to which the mask can protect against dust concentration. In case of any doubt, it is recommended that you should select masks of a higher rating that you’re planning to purchase.

For workplaces that have highly toxic particles, like asbestos, it is advisable to select non-disposable masks that feature sealing gaskets for enhanced safety. Look for asbestos mask in the market and you can find several different options.

Maintenance and Replacement of Dust Masks

It is very important for every workplace to select PPE that meets the local and international regulatory standards to protect the workers. In case if you use non-disposable masks, make sure that they are cleaned on a daily basis.

It is also better to have a stock inventory of the masks and re-order them as soon as the stock is low. Also, make sure that the masks are replaced if there are any signs of wear and tear or are uncomfortable to wear.

Important to Remember

Half face dust masks increase the resistance against inhalation. The absorbed dust can make it very difficult for the user to breathe through them in cases when they’re worn for long durations. Moreover, the effectiveness is severely reduced when the amount of water vapor and carbon dioxide increases in the dead zone. This is the area between the face and the bowl of the mask.

Every exhalation increases the carbon dioxide concentration in the dead zone. Thus, it is very important to regularly change the mask. This is the reason why a lot of modern dust masks feature exhalation valves which help in reducing the concentration of carbon dioxide. As compared to a standard mask, these masks with the exhalation valve can be used for longer durations.


Every year, more than 10,000 deaths are reported due to respiratory hazards at workplaces and homes due to long-term exposure to dust and other harmful particulates. Dust masks are a simple yet highly effective strategy to protect yourself against wheezing, cough, chest tightness, shortness of breath, breathing difficulty, and even life-threatening long-term conditions.

Now that you know how the dust masks are rated, you now have adequate knowledge to make the right decision. Evaluate and identify the airborne hazards of your workplace to select the dust mask as per their rating. In case of any doubt, just go with the mask that offers the highest level of protection.

If the mask you’re planning to buy has additional features, make sure that you clearly understand them as well as their functioning to select the ones that are ideal for your workplace.



Only four of the five latest confirmed 2019 novel coronavirus infections in the U.S. are people with a travel history to Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak, according to the CDC’s National Center for Respiratory Diseases. Its director, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, said at a press briefing yesterday that the fifth patient – who is in California - is a close household contact of another patient in California. This is the second instance of person-to-person spread in the United States.

The new cases bring the total of coronavirus cases in the U.S. to 11, and Messonnier said there will likely be more.

“We expect to see more cases of person-to-person spread among close contacts. And we continue to expect this will happen given the explosive nature of this outbreak in China and our very aggressive public health response where we are putting a lot of resources into finding infections this virus.”

Those resources include a test developed by the CDC that can detect the virus clinical specimens.

As of yesterday, there were 167 persons under investigation (PUIs) who have tested negative for infection with the novel virus. Tests are currently pending on 82 PUIs.

Messonnier said the CDC has isolated the virus, and this week it is being sent to the NIH resource repository for use by the broad scientific community. The agency also plans to submit an Emergency Use Authorization or EUA package to FDA, The EUA process expedites the use of potentially life-saving medical or diagnostic products during a public health emergency. Once approved, the EUA will allow public health labs across the United States to use the CDC developed diagnostic assay.

“This will greatly enhance our national capacity to test for this virus,” said Messonnier. “In preparation for that approval, CDC has shipped the test to the International Reagent Resource so that States and international partners can begin ordering the test for their use.”

An initial negative result, though, does not guarantee that a PUI won’t get sick, according to Messonnier, who said that although the test is accurate, a negative result may mean that an infection has not developed enough to be detected by the test. “This is a new virus. And the best timing and right type of sample to determine if someone is infected with this new virus has not yet been determined.”

Due to the intensity of transmission in Hubei province; the expansion to other provinces in China; the continued community transmission; the growing volume of exported cases to countries around the world; the continued reporting of deaths, including the first death outside of China; and reports of person to person spread outside China, the federal government last week took took unprecedented steps in the area of travel.

President Trump issued a proclamation that that suspends entry of foreign nationals who have visited China within the past 14 days into the United States. There are some exemptions including for immediate family members of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. People coming from Hong Kong and Macau are excluded.

People who are allowed entry into the U.S. who are entering the country within 14 days of having been in Hubei province or the rest of mainland China will be directed to one of 11 U.S. airports. At those airports, American citizens and exempted persons who have been in Hubei province in the previous 14 days will have an additional health assessment, including being screened for fever, cough, difficulty breathing.

“If symptomatic, American citizens and those who are exempt will be transferred for further medical evaluation,” said. “They will not be able to complete their itinerary and will be isolated for 14 days. If asymptomatic, American citizens and those who are exempt will be subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine at or near that location. Remember, this is specifically for people who are returning from Hubei province. These people will not be able to complete their itinerary. CDC is working with state to determine where travelers will be quarantined. American citizens and people who are exempt who have been in other parts of mainland China, that is outside of Hubei province, in the previous 14 days will have an additional health assessment where they will be screened for fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. If symptomatic, they will be transferred for medical evaluation and they will not be able to complete their itinerary until that evaluation is completed. If asymptomatic, American citizens and people who are exempt will be allowed to reach their final destination, and after arrival will be asked to stay home as much as possible and monitor their health for 14 days.”

Messonier said there are likely to be confirmed infections among returning travelers.

“It’s important to know that this strategy is not meant to catch every single traveler returning from China with novel coronavirus. Given the nature of this virus and how it’s spreading, that would be impossible. But working together we can catch the majority of them, and the goal here is to slow the entry of this virus into the United States.

“Our second line of defense in this strategy is a public health system which is on high alert. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and adjust accordingly. Either pulling back or strengthening these measures. These actions are science based and deemed at protecting the health and safety of all Americans.”


Dubai: UAE authorities have screened those who may have come into contact with the five patients detected with Coronavirus in the country, but none has presented with any symptoms of the disease so far, a top official told Gulf News on Sunday.

Dr Hussain Al Rand, Assistant Undersecretary for Health Centres and Clinics under the Ministry of Health and Prevention and Chairman of the National Committee for the Implementation of International Health Regulations and Prevention of Pandemics, said, “Our surveillance system is very good. Those who may have come into contact with the five Chinese patients have also been screened and there is nothing to worry as they did not show any symptoms. We have advised them to get in touch with us if they develop any symptoms at a later stage.”

"Our surveillance system is very good. Those who may have come into contact with the five Chinese patients have also been screened and there is nothing to worry as they did not show any symptoms. We have advised them to get in touch with us if they develop any symptoms at a later stage."

- Dr Hussain Al Rand, Assistant Undersecretary for Health Centres and Clinics

Dr Al Rand said the family of the fifth patient – a Chinese man travelling from Wuhan in China – had also been screened and had tested negative. The fifth case was confirmed by the Health Ministry on Saturday.

He said, “The man came with his wife and son, but they did not have any symptoms. Still, because of the close contact they had with him, they are also in quarantine in the hospital.”

Dr Rand said, “The condition of this Chinese patient, as well as that of the four earlier patients remains stable. They are all receiving necessary medical care and there has been no deterioration of their condition.”

The first four cases in the UAE were confirmed on January 29. They were identified as a Chinese family – a couple, their child and a grandparent – travelling from Wuhan in China.

The family is also in quarantine and will be discharged in due course, Dr Al Rand said. According to existing protocols, a minimum of 14 days’ time is stipulated for the isolation and treatment of Coronavirus patients.

Dr Al Rand again reminded residents not to pay heed to any rumours circulating on social media or otherwise and to gather information only from official and reliable channels.



Wash your hands frequently

Wash your hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

Why? Washing your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water kills the virus if it is on your hands.

Practice respiratory hygiene

When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – discard tissue immediately into a closed bin and clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

Why? Covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing prevent the spread of germs and viruses. If you sneeze or cough into your hands, you may contaminate objects or people that you touch.

Maintain social distancing

Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and other people, particularly those who are coughing, sneezing and have a fever.

Why? When someone who is infected with a respiratory disease, like 2019-nCoV, coughs or sneezes they project small droplets containing the virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the virus.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth

Why? Hands touch many surfaces which can be contaminated with the virus. If you touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your contaminated hands, you can transfer the virus from the surface to yourself.

If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early

Tell your health care provider if you have traveled in an area in China where 2019-nCoV has been reported, or if you have been in close contact with someone with who has traveled from China and has respiratory symptoms.

Why? Whenever you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing it’s important to seek medical attention promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition. Respiratory symptoms with fever can have a range of causes, and depending on your personal travel history and circumstances, 2019-nCoV could be one of them.

If you have mild respiratory symptoms and no travel history to or within China

If you have mild respiratory symptoms and no travel history to or within China, carefully practice basic respiratory and hand hygiene and stay home until you are recovered, if possible.

As a general precaution, practice general hygiene measures when visiting live animal markets, wet markets or animal product markets

Ensure regular hand washing with soap and potable water after touching animals and animal products; avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with hands; and avoid contact with sick animals or spoiled animal products. Strictly avoid any contact with other animals in the market (e.g., stray cats and dogs, rodents, birds, bats). Avoid contact with potentially contaminated animal waste or fluids on the soil or structures of shops and market facilities.

Avoid consumption of raw or undercooked animal products

Handle raw meat, milk or animal organs with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.



nCoV has much lesser virulence as compared to other coronaviruses such as MERS and SARS.

As the UAE confirms its first cases of novel coronavirus (nCoV) patients, doctors called for calm - stressing that the probability of a healthy person dying from the virus is "slim to zero".

It is not a "strong virus", said Dr Maan Jamal, a consultant pulmonologist at Emirates Hospital Jumeirah. "But experts fear it might spread fast and no one has any immunity against it."

In terms of severity, "nCoV has much lesser virulence as compared to other coronaviruses such as MERS and SARS. However, because it is new, it has some bad consequences", he added.

"We know very little about it. Though the coronavirus has been around since the '60s, nCOV is new. We are facing a new genome."

Based on the figures available around the nCoV outbreak, about 2.2 per cent of those with confirmed cases have died. SARS, on the other hand, had a fatality rate of 9.6 per cent.

And now, many nCoV patients are recovering. Chinese authorities recently said some 243 patients have been discharged from hospitals in China.

"Patients can be removed from quarantine and discharged from hospitals once symptoms are alleviated," explained Dr Jamal.

To further put the situation in perspective, an Emirati internal specialist compared nCoV with seasonal influenza.

Dr Omar Al Hammadi said: "Seasonal influenza is more common than the nCoV. And in a healthy person, both diseases are self-resolving."

Worldwide, seasonal influenza epidemics have caused three to five million severe cases every year, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In the case of nCoV, "more complications are noted among older people and patients with pre-existing conditions", said Dr Al Hammadi.

Dr Jamal added: "Patients with chronic lung diseases, diabetes, and other conditions can get infections from both nCoV and seasonal influenza".

Dr Subramanian Meyyappan, an internal medicine consultant at Burjeel Speciality Hospital, said: "The percentage of people who are dying from the disease - the vulnerable population - is a very small portion of the infected. Like any virus, this, too, has to run its course."

Doctors advised all individuals to take necessary precautions.


'No, virus will NOT spread via packages from China'

Like any virus, the novel coronavirus (nCoV) needs a human host, doctors explained.

"Once you isolate infected persons, it ensures that it will not transmit to anyone else," explained Dr Maan Jamal, a consultant pulmonologist at Emirates Hospital Jumeirah.

This is why he said all talks about the virus spreading through packages from China must be dismissed.

"When exposed to an outside environment, the virus dies. Packages from China take four to five days to get here," Dr Jamal said.

"People need to use science and some logic to tackle this disease."


The rise in new coronavirus cases outside China, now constitutes a global health emergency, the World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee declared on Thursday, calling on all countries to take urgent measures to contain the respiratory disease.

Latest WHO figures state there are more than 7,800 confirmed cases globally, with 7,736 confirmed in China, and a further 12,167 suspected cases inside the country where the outbreak began in Wuhan, a city of around 11 million which remains in lockdown.

Latest figures

So far, 170 people have died in China, and 1,370 cases there are officially described as severe. A total of 124 have recovered and been discharged from hospital.

Outside China, there are 82 confirmed cases, in 18 different countries, and only seven had no history of travel in China.

“There has been human-to-human transmission in three countries outside China”, according to a statement released by WHO’s Emergency Committee. “One of these cases is severe and there have been no deaths.”

When the committee met last week, there were “divergent views” on whether the outbreak which began last month, constituted a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), but the expert body convened by the WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was in agreement on Thursday.

Chinese leadership welcomed

“The main reason for this declaration is not what is happening in China, but what is happening in other countries”, said the WHO chief, praising the "extraordinary measures" taken there by authorities.

“China quickly identified the virus and shared its sequence, so that other countries could diagnose it quickly and protect themselves, which has resulted in rapid diagnostic tools”, said the statement from the Committee.

With concern rising that less developed countries will be more vulnerable, China has agreed to work internationally, with others who need support and “the measures China has taken are good not only for that country, but also for the rest of the world”, the statement added.

However, there remain “many unknowns”, the Committee warned, concerning the speed and spread of the epidemic.

Virus can be contained

“The Committee believes that it is still possible to interrupt virus spread, provided that countries put in place strong measures to detect disease early, isolate and treat cases, trace contacts, and promote social distancing measures commensurate with the risk.”

Mr. Tedros tweeted following the meeting: “We must remember that these are people, not numbers. More important than the declaration of a public health emergency are the committee’s recommendations for preventing the spread…and ensuring a measured and evidence-based response.”

Travel and trade should continue

He said there was there was “no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade. We call on all countries to implement decisions that are evidence-based and consistent. WHO stands ready to provide advice to any country that is considering what measures to take.”

The Committee said evidence has shown that restricting the movement of people and goods during public health emergencies “may be ineffective and may divert resources from other interventions.

“Further, restrictions may interrupt needed aid and technical support, may disrupt businesses and may have negative effects” on the economies of those countries affected.

Advice to China:

The Committee is advising China to:

  • continue to implement a “comprehensive risk communication strategy”, regularly informing the population on developments. Public health measures need to be enhanced to contain the virus, and the resilience of the health system ensured, while health-workers are protected.

  • Enhance surveillance and active case finding.

  • Collaborate with WHO and partners to investigate and understand the spread and evolution of the disease.

  • Share full data on all human cases.

  • Strengthen the efforts to identify the animal-to-human source of the infection, and “particularly the potential for ongoing circulation with WHO as soon as it becomes available.”

  • Exit screening at international airports and ports, for early detection.

  • Other countries

    “Countries are reminded that they are legally required to share information with WHO” now the health emergency is officially declared, said the Committee.

    Despite encouraging countries not to impose blanket restrictions on trade and travel, “in certain specific circumstances, measures that restrict the movement of people may prove temporarily useful, such as in settings with limited response capacities and capabilities, or where there is high intensity of transmission among vulnerable populations.”

    WHO is calling for greater support for low- and middle-income countries, to support their reponse to any cases, and allow them access to vaccines and drugs, as well as better surveillance and diagnostic tools.


    Some of the major and busiest international airports in the world have started announcing preventive safety measures against the spread of coronavirus after its outbreak in China and reported spread to more than 20 countries.

    Some of the major and busiest international airports in the world have started announcing preventive safety measures against the spread of coronavirus after its outbreak in China and quick spread to more than 20 countries.

    The deadly virus that was first found in Wuhan, the capital and the most populated city of Hubei Province, in Central China, is spreading at a rapid pace despite various preventive measures being taken by the Chinese authorities. Deaths caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) have been increasing at a rapid pace from the mere two reported initially to 170 in less than a month.

    International passengers travelling from China are naturally the biggest risk to the countries they arrive to. The CDC initially issued a level-3 warning recommending to avoid travel, unless essential, to Wuhan and level-2 warning to the rest of China. But given the fast spread, the CDC revised the travel warning to level-3 for entire China.

    Coronavirus – how airports and airlines are ensuring a safe travel

    Multiple news reports are emerging that the coronavirus has crossed borders, with cases confirmed in the US, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, and Thailand.

    With the Center for Disease Control (CDC) having confirmed the first case of a Wuhan coronavirus on 21 January followed by a second on 24 January, three international airports each in the US and Canada officially announced measures against coronavirus to prevent its spread, with European airports too taking similar steps. The CDC expanded the screening to 20 airports within a week due to the growing spread of the virus.

    United Airlines announced the cancellation of a number of scheduled flights from US hubs to Beijing, Hong Kong, and Shanghai from 1 February anticipating lower demand due to the nCoV fears. The airline also announced travel waiver from 24 January to 29 February, initially to China and later included Hong Kong. The world’s largest airline, American Airlines, hasn’t announced any cancellations or waivers yet, though.

    Air Canada announced similar cancellations of select flights to optimise its capacity based on the reduced demand.i

    British Airways suspended direct flights to and from China, following confirmed cases of coronavirus infection in France and Germany.

    The Changi Airport in Singapore has started thermal screening for passengers arriving from China, in addition to isolating those with the disease symptoms.

    Indigo Airlines and Air India have cancelled majority flights to China, even before the first case was confirmed in the country on 30 January.

    Intensive measures being taken at Chinese airports

    China has started taking intensive measures including closing the outbound traffic from Wuhan as millions of people, both local and international tourists, are anticipated to travel on the occasion of the Chinese lunar new year on 25 January. 2019-nCoV cases have also been registered in Beijing and Guangdong of people that travelled to Wuhan.

    Airports around China have started screening passengers and immediately admitting those with even the simplest of the symptoms, for special care.

    Measures at Hong Kong international airport

    Hong Kong has quarantined the traveller from Wuhan who was found with the coronavirus symptoms to prevent the spread of the novel Coronavirus disease (nCoV). The virus hits at a busy holiday time for the travellers. Hong Kong international airport, which already suffered a drop in passenger traffic in 2019 due to anti-government protests, is taking prompt measures to prevent the potential epidemic.

    Planes flying from Wuhan to Hong Kong are being parked at a specially designated area. Cleaning and disinfection are being increased rapidly at the arrival terminal for passengers from Wuhan, as reported by Time.

    Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Airlines, meanwhile, plan to cut the flights to China and has started allowing passengers who booked to/from Wuhan to reschedule their trips free of cost.

    Coronavirus care at South Korean airports

    Airline crew flying to and from South Korean airports are being offered hazardous-material suits, in addition to disinfecting planes more frequently, after the first case of coronavirus infection was reported in South Korea.

    Screening at Heathrow, Paris and other European airports

    Three European airports have direct flights to Wuhan, from major cities such as London, Rome, and Paris. Airlines such as China Southern and Air France offer non-stop flights to Europe throughout the year.
    London Heathrow airport has designated a separate area in Terminal 4 to screen the passengers arriving from Wuhan and check for as well as inform the passengers about the symptoms.

    The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) recommended airlines to provide Universal Protection Kits to crew flying to/from the affected countries.

    US and Canadian airports increasingly screening for coronavirus infection

    John F. Kennedy, Los Angeles and San Francisco international airports were the first to start screening for the coronavirus, followed by O’Hare and Hartsfield-Jackson international airports. The screening was increased to a total of 20 airports across the US within a week.

    Canadian airports including Toronto international airport, Montreal international airport, and Vancouver international airport have announced that international passengers will have to undergo additional screening such as temperature and other symptomatic checks and inquiring about their visits to Wuhan to check for the possibility of having contracted the infection.

    Thermal screening at Indian airports

    The Ministry of Civil Aviation, India, announced multiple preventive measures against the Wuhan coronavirus initially at 11 airports including Chennai, Vishakapatnam, Bengaluru, Bhubaneswar, Hyderabad, Cochin, Delhi, Mumbai, Amritsar, Kochi, and Kolkata.
    Thermal screening has been extended to 20 airports with the infection spreading to other countries quickly.

    Arriving passengers that travelled to Chinese cities such as Wuhan in the last 14 days and having symptoms of the viral infection are being asked to provide a self-declaration, while international passengers from China and Hong Kong are being screened at the pre-immigration areas of the airports. Thermal cameras are being installed and airport signage being displayed at all the airports.

    Kerala is the state with the highest number of coronavirus suspects in India.

    Coronavirus screening at New Zealand, UAE and Iranian airports

    Screening stations have been set up at the Auckland and Christchurch airports in New Zealand with more measures expected to be implemented in the future.

    Major airports in the UAE including Abu Dhabi and Dubai have started thermal screening of passengers on direct flights from China. The Imam Khomeini International Airport in Iran has also started health screening for patients.

    How airports perform thermal screening of passengers

    Airports perform thermal screening of passengers to spot fevers caused by infections such as CoV, swine flu, and influenza (such as H1N1). Thermal screening is performed using mass-screening systems that measure the skin temperature at high-speed using thermal imaging and temperature measurement equipment such as the FevIR Scan.

    Such quick mass-screening ensures to take security measures without causing delays and discomfort to passengers.

    Coronavirus symptoms

    Symptoms of coronavirus infections can begin with simple cold and cough and mild fever, but aggravate if left untreated, leading to more severe respiratory illnesses such as the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). MERS-CoV transmission happens both through humans and animals such as dogs and cats.

    Coronavirus vaccine

    No vaccines exist currently to fight the coronavirus, but the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US is developing one but that would take at least a year to be available. A number of private pharmaceutical companies are also developing potential vaccines.

    Coronavirus / MERS-CoV treatment

    Most of the coronavirus drugs in the pipeline are at early stages of development, leaving anti-viral drugs used for other conditions as the only treatment options.


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