The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) a global pandemic Wednesday as the virus has rapidly spread to more than 121,000 people around the world, especially in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and the United States.
“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 COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press conference at the organization’s headquarters in Geneva.
Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly, Ghebreyesus added. 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.
“In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher,” the WHO chief said.
He said several countries have been able to suppress and control the outbreak, but he lashed at other world leaders for failing to act quickly enough or drastically enough to contain the spread.
The WHO, however, emphasized that describing the situation as a pandemic does not change its assessment of the threat posed by this virus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do.
“We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus. And we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled, at the same time. WHO has been in full response mode since we were notified of the first cases,” Ghebreyesus.
The WHO reported that of the more than 120,000 cases reported globally in 114 countries, more than 90 percent of cases are in just four countries, and two of those – China and the Republic of Korea – have significantly declining epidemics.
Also, 81 countries have not reported any cases, and 57 countries have reported 10 cases or less.
“We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic,” the WHO head added.