The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that data security regulations have been deferring the delivery of urgent data about the spread of the novel coronavirus outside territory China.
“We continually ask [national health authorities] that they share with us the core data that we need and I would say that it hasn’t been smooth sailing with any country so far because we’ve had to request several countries to speed up their data sharing,” Michael Ryan, the head of health emergencies programs for the WHO, the United Nations health agency says.
“In some cases, there are data protection issues, there are citizen protection issues, there are issues around the sharing of individualized data on individual patients and then there are some logistical issues,” Ryan told reporters in a briefing at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
“This has not been through a lack of transparency; this has been through the urgency and difficulties of gathering data in these situations, collating that data, and sharing it outside the country,” he added.
On January 31, after at first declining to do as such, the WHO announced the novel coronavirus epidemic to be a public health crisis of international concern – otherwise called a PHEIC – referring to the potential of the virus to spread to nations not prepared to manage the virus. There are more than 1,000 affirmed coronavirus cases outside territory China, remembering 610 for Japan, 81 in Singapore and 62 in Hong Kong.
“We fully recognize that all of the affected counties are under extreme duress, and their primary responsibility is to their citizens and dealing with the public health challenge that they face,” Ryan said.
Like other WHO authorities before him, Ryan reiterated praise for the measures Beijing has taken to control the epidemic within its borders.
Specifically, he protected the domestic lockdown measures China has taken to curb the spread of the epidemic that has caused about 2,000 deaths in-country.
Hubei region, the epicenter of the deadly coronavirus outbreak, reported Sunday that it would impose extreme new travel restrictions on all occupants to stop the spread of the disease.
Under the new standards, all businesses will close and the province’s 58 million individuals won’t have the option to leave their residential community or village.
“While [China is] getting success at putting out one fire, they don’t want the fire to start somewhere else so they’re taking very directed measures to ensure that people returning to the city are observed and monitored,” Ryan said.
“You can argue whether those measures are excessive or whether they’re restrictive on people, but there’s a lot at stake here in terms of public health,” he continued.
“Right now, the strategic and tactical approach [that China is taking] is the correct one, and also the strategic and tactical approaches like in Singapore, and we’re seeing countries more and more having very directed, well-planned operations to detect this virus, contain it, stop it, and slow down its spread,” Ryan said.