WHO: Coronavirus outbreak is a pandemic

The World Health Organization has declared the new coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.

At a media briefing on the global spread of COVID-19, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said that the number of cases of COVID-19 outside of China has increased 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has tripled.

Dr. Tedros also said that "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."

Thus, the organization decided to characterize the outbreak as a pandemic, after refraining for weeks.

On March 10, Dr. Tedros said that though the threat of a pandemic was "very real," the outbreak could not be classified as a pandemic because 93 percent of all COVID-19 cases were confined to four countries.

Although four countries are still reporting more than 90 percent of the cases, "all countries can still change the course of this pandemic," said Dr. Tedros.

In a March 9 article on CNN, Sanjay Gupta, MD, listed the generally agreed upon criteria for a pandemic: "a virus that can cause illness or death; sustained person-to-person transmission of that virus; and evidence of spread throughout the world."

In 2010, the WHO defined a pandemic as "the worldwide spread of a new disease."

The new coronavirus has spread to six of seven continents, 114 countries and sickened 121,564 people worldwide.

If countries act now to "detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilize their people in the response," the countries with fewer COVID-19 cases can "prevent those cases becoming clusters, and those clusters becoming community transmission," said Dr. Tedros.

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





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