Coronavirus Is Now a Pandemic, WHO Declares

"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."

Twitter/ World Health Organization

The World Health Organization has now declared the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic, which is defined as a worldwide spread of a new disease.

In a media briefing on Wednesday, a panel of officials, including WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, announced the new declaration. The novel coronavirus has rapidly spread across more than 100 countries since its discovery in Wuhan, China in December, infecting hundreds of thousands. "We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a #coronavirus,” WHO said. 

“We’re deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction,” Dr. Tedros said. 

“In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of COVID19 cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher,” he added.

Declaring the coronavirus a pandemic is not intended to instill more fear about the virus, nor does it mean the fight against it is over.

"Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO's assessment of the threat posed by the virus," Dr. Tedros said. "It doesn't change what WHO is doing. And it doesn't change what countries should do."

He also said that many countries can “change the course of the pandemic” by detecting, testing, treating, isolating, tracing, and mobilizing people in the response. The press conference also touched on many countries struggling with lack of resources.

Declaring a pandemic can affect world markets, trade, and travel restrictions. In January, the WHO declared the virus a global health emergency after cases outside of China started to rapidly increase.

“We’re in this together, to do the right things with calm and protect the citizens of the world. It’s doable," said Dr. Tedros.

As of Wednesday afternoon, COVID-19 has infected more than 120,000 people worldwide, killing at least 4,300. Of those infected, more than 66,000 have so far recovered. In China, where the virus originated, the spread has started to slow down. Other countries like Italy and Iran have seen a spike in cases, causing Italy to instill a nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the virus.

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