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Under the 2005 International Health Regulations, WHO has the power to decide when to declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). A PHEIC is an “extraordinary event that constitutes a public health risk to other countries through international spread of disease and potentially requires a coordinated international response.”.

Since 2009, WHO has made six PHEIC declarations, the most recent of which was the 30 January 2020 PHEIC declaration of COVID-19.