WHO panel decides not to declare international Ebola emergency

People coming from Congo have their temperature measured to screen for symptoms of Ebola, at the Mpondwe border crossing with Congo, in western Uganda Friday, June 14, 2019. (AP)
Updated 15 June 2019

WHO panel decides not to declare international Ebola emergency

  • Such a decision would lead to boosting public health measures, funding and resources, and could include recommendations on trade and travel
  • There have been 2,084 cases and 1,405 deaths since being declared in August

GENEVA: A World Health Organization panel decided on Friday not to declare an international emergency over Congo’s Ebola outbreak despite its spread to Uganda this week, concluding such a declaration could cause too much economic harm.
Congo’s epidemic is the second worst ever, with 2,108 cases of Ebola and 1,411 deaths since last August. This week it reached Uganda, where three cases were recorded, all in people who had arrived from Congo. Two of them died.
In a statement, the panel of 13 independent medical experts on the WHO’s Emergency Committee urged neighboring “at risk” countries to improve their preparedness for detecting and managing imported cases, “as Uganda has done.” “This is not a global emergency, it is an emergency in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a severe emergency and it may affect neighboring counties,” Dr. Preben Aavitsland, the panel’s acting chair told a news conference at the UN agency’s headquarters in Geneva.
“It was the view of the Committee that there is really nothing to gain by declaring a PHEIC (Public Health Emergency of International Concern), but there is potentially a lot to lose.”
Such a declaration would risk creating restrictions on travel or trade “that could severely harm the economy in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Aavitsland said.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaking by telephone from Kampala, said: “The spread of Ebola to Uganda is a new development but the fundamental dynamics of the outbreak haven’t changed.”
Ugandan authorities have now drawn up a list of 98 contacts, or contacts of contacts, potentially exposed to the Ebola virus, of whom 10 are considered “high risk,” said Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s emergencies program. Vaccination of those contacts and health workers with a Merck experimental vaccine is to start on Saturday, he said.
Some medical groups had urged the committee to declare an emergency which would have led to boosting public health measures, funding and resources.
Lawrence Gostin, a global health law professor at Georgetown University Law School, voiced disappointment that the panel had failed to declare an emergency for the third time.
“The @WHO was criticized for delay in declaring a PHEIC in W Africa. Will it’s failure in DRC affect legitimacy?” Gostin tweeted. He said he admired the panel members but disagreed with their conclusion.
Only four emergencies have been declared in the past decade, including the worst ever Ebola outbreak, which hit West Africa in 2014-2016. The others were an influenza pandemic in 2009, polio in 2014 and the Zika virus in 2016.
Ryan told Reuters on Friday that there had been no sign of local transmission of Ebola virus in Uganda.
“No evidence yet...But we’re not out of the woods yet,” he said, noting that the incubation period is up to 21 days. 


Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan targeted by new rape complaint

Updated 29 min 19 sec ago

Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan targeted by new rape complaint

  • A woman in her 50s accused Ramadan of raping her along with a member of his staff
  • He has been charged in France with raping two women previously

PARIS: Tariq Ramadan, a leading Islamic scholar charged in France with raping two women, has also been accused of taking part in the gang rape of a journalist, French judicial sources said Sunday.
The sources confirmed reports on Europe 1 radio and in Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper that a woman in her 50s had accused Ramadan, 56, of raping her along with a member of his staff when she went to interview the academic at a hotel in Lyon in May 2014.
The woman, who filed a criminal complaint in May 2019, also accused Ramadan of issuing “threats or acts of intimidation” aimed at dissuading her from reporting the alleged attack to the police, the judicial sources added.
Ramadan, a married father of four whose grandfather founded Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, was a professor at Oxford University until he was forced to take leave when rape allegations surfaced at the height of the “Me Too” movement in late 2017.
He has denied charges he raped a disabled woman in 2009 and a feminist activist in 2012.
He was taken into custody in February 2018 and held for nine months before being granted bail.
Authorities in Switzerland are also investigating him after receiving a rape complaint in that country.
His lawyer, Emmanuel Marsigny, refused to comment Sunday on the latest allegations against him in France.
The woman behind the latest complaint told police that Ramadan and a male assistant repeatedly raped her in Ramadan’s room at the Sofitel hotel in Lyon.
She described the alleged attack as being of “untold violence” and claimed that when she threatened to report them to the police Ramadan replied: “You don’t know how powerful I am.”
She also claimed that Ramadan had contacted her via the Messenger app in January, two months after his release from jail, saying that he wanted to make her an “offer” of a “professional nature,” without giving details.