WHO officially characterises COVID-19 as a pandemic

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) today declared the COVID-19 disease as a pandemic. There are currently over 118,000 confirmed cases across 114 countries around the world.

The WHO said that it has been assessing the outbreak around the clock and is deeply concerned by the alarming levels of spread and severity and inaction. It expects the number of cases, deaths and affected countries to increase.

“This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus. We have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled, at the same time,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general.

The WHO classified the novel coronavirus as a global public health emergency on 30 January but fell short of declaring the outbreak a pandemic over concerns that it would incite unnecessary panic.

“We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic. This is the first pandemic that can be controlled.”

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Outside of China, there are large outbreaks in Italy, South Korea, and the United States. However, in China and South Korea, outbreaks appear to be declining, which reaffirms WHO’s belief that the disease can be controlled.

“We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic,” said Dr Tedros.

He said that all countries must “strike a fine balance between protecting health, minimising economic and social disruption and respecting human rights.”

He reiterated that countries must take a “whole-of-government, whole-of-society” approach built around a comprehensive strategy to prevent infections, save lives and minimise impact.

The director-general summarised the strategy to curb the spread of the pandemic in four key areas:

  • Prepare and be ready
  • Detect, protect and treat
  • Reduce transmission
  • Innovate and learn

He reminds all countries to activate and scale up their emergency response mechanisms; communicate to the people about the risk and how better to protect themselves; and find, isolate, test and treat every case, and trace every contact.

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He added that countries should get their hospitals ready; protect and train their health workers.

“Let’s all look out for each other.”

He summed it up with five words:

Prevention.

Preparedness.

Public health.

Political leadership.

People.

For up-to-date COVID-19 updates, head over to the WHO situation reports page.

You can find an interactive web-based map to track the outbreak at Johns Hopkins.

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