Novel coronavirus, sweeping across the world and killed around 4,300 people across the world, can be characterized as a “pandemic”, the World Health Organization declared today.
“WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction. We have therefore made the assessment that COVID19 can be characterized as a pandemic,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom said at a press conference.
It’s the first time the WHO has called an outbreak a pandemic since the H1N1 “swine flu” in 2009.
A disease or an outbreak is declared a pandemic when it occurs over a massive geographical area – for instance, several continents.
“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death. Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this coronavirus,” he added.
The spread of the virus can still be controlled, Adhanom said. He pointed to both China and South Korea, where outbreaks appear to be declining. “It’s doable.”
“We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action. We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear,” he added.
The worst affected countries after China are Italy (10,149 cases, 631 deaths), Iran (9,000 cases, 354 deaths), South Korea (7,755 cases, 60 deaths) and France (1,784 cases, 33 deaths).
Spain later reported that its number of infections had passed the 2,000 marks, with 47 deaths, thus overtaking France.