Yet again, the world is experiencing a global viral epidemic of zoonotic origin. As of Feb 12, 45 204 confirmed cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and 1116 deaths had been reported in 25 countries. The majority of cases and, at the time of writing, all but one death have been in China, despite efforts in the country to halt transmission through shutting down transport, quarantining entire cities, and enforcing the use of face masks. International flights have been cancelled and affected cruise ships quarantined. At this stage, it is unclear whether the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV)-2 outbreak will run its course, as SARS-CoV did in 2003, or will become an endemic cause of viral pneumonia.
In our January issue we announced the formation of The Lancet Infectious Diseases Commission on Preparedness for Emerging Epidemic Threats. The Commission will revisit global preparedness planning and assumptions underlying agreements such as the International Health Regulations. It aims to account for new challenges in preparing for and responding to infectious disease outbreaks. These challenges, which are political and institutional, social, environmental, technological, and pathogen-related, are being brought to the foreground by the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak.