Intended for healthcare professionals


Response to the emerging novel coronavirus outbreak

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: (Published 31 January 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m406

Read our latest coverage of the Coronavirus outbreak

  1. Ilona Kickbusch, director1,
  2. Gabriel Leung, dean of medicine2
  1. 1Global Health Programme, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland
  2. 2Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China
  1. Correspondence to: I Kickbusch kickbusch{at}

Worldwide political commitment to pandemic preparedness is essential

The 2019 flagship report of the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, A World at Risk, made it clear that the key question is not whether there will be a global pandemic, but when.1 While scientists and public health professionals are working non-stop to contain the novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV, political scientists, economists, and sociologists should also ready themselves for rapid response. The current outbreak that originated from Wuhan, China, first recognised barely a month ago,2 is very different from other outbreaks in terms of scale, connectivity, and political implications. It will teach us important lessons about preparedness but also about the response to outbreaks in different political systems within a new geopolitical world order.

Containment measures

The country paying the highest price is China—socially and economically, in addition to the enormous physical and mental health burden on its citizens.3 China has taken draconian measures to contain the outbreak, including the quarantine of at least 30 million residents of Wuhan and neighbouring cities. Countrywide interventions include delaying resumption of school after the spring festival holiday, encouraging citizens to work from home and …

View Full Text