The International Health Regulations (IHR) are an international legal instrument which is binding on all World Health Organization (WHO) Member States. The IHR aim to help the Member States prevent and manage public health risks that may have the potential to spread across borders and affect people worldwide; meanwhile, minimise the interference with international travel and trade.
On 23rd May 2005, the 58th World Health Assembly adopted a new set of IHR – the IHR (2005) which eventually came into force among the Member States on 15th June 2007. The IHR (2005) were developed based on the previous IHR version agreed in 1969. Many of the provisions in the IHR (2005) take reference to the experience gained and lessons learnt over the past 30 years.
The IHR (2005) define the roles of the WHO and Member States in identifying and responding to public health incidents; and sharing the concerned information. Member States are required to report all public health incidents which may constitute a public health emergency of international concern and in particular certain critical diseases – smallpox, poliomyelitis due to wild type poliovirus, human influenza caused by a new subtype, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
Under the IHR (2005), all Member States have the obligations to assess their capacity so as to strengthen the surveillance and response systems to cope with incidents that may constitute a public health emergency of international concern; and also to meet the requirements for designated airports, seaports and ground crossings which are for international travel.
International Health Regulations and Hong Kong
The IHR (2005) have become effective since 15th June 2007. The IHR (2005) are international legal instrument binding on all World Health Organization (WHO) Member States including the People’s Republic of China, which extends to cover Hong Kong.
To bring the local legal provisions in line with the requirements of the IHR (2005) and to update the local legal framework for the prevention and control of disease, the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance (Cap. 599) has entered into force since July 2008 in Hong Kong. The Cap. 599 is an Ordinance to provide for the control and prevention of disease among human beings; to prevent the introduction into, the spread in and the transmission from, Hong Kong of any disease, source of disease or contamination; and to apply relevant measures of the IHR promulgated by the WHO.
Department of Health