1. PURPOSE OF THE DOCUMENT
This document has been developed for the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean to establish a regional plan of action to support the countries of the Region to rapidly accelerate the scaling up of their capacities for the prevention and early detection of, and rapid response to, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), as required under the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005). The regional plan is aligned with the WHO global 2019 novel coronavirus strategic preparedness and response plan, but tailored to the regional context.
2. BACKGROUND, PHEIC DECLARATION AND SITUATION ANALYSIS
Coronaviruses are zoonotic viruses that circulate amongst animals. Some have been identified in humans, causing illness ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness.
On 31 December 2019, WHO was alerted to several cases of pneumonia of unknown origin in Wuhan City in the Hubei Province of China. One week later, on 7 January 2020, Chinese authorities confirmed that they had identified a new virus as the cause of the pneumonia cluster.
The new virus is a coronavirus, belonging to the same family of viruses that cause the common cold, as well as viruses that cause severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
Since the first cases were reported, WHO has been working with the Chinese authorities and global experts to learn more about the virus, including the source of infection, how it spreads, its severity, the high-risk groups, how best to treat patients and how to control the outbreak. Furthermore, WHO has been working with countries to better prepare for and respond to the situation or an epidemic.