Coronavirus declared as pandemic by World Health Organisation

The World Health Organisation has formally declared the coronavirus outbreak as pandemic.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a media briefing today: "In the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID19 outside China has increased 13-fold and the number of affected countries has tripled. There are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 people have lost their lives.

"Thousands more are fighting for their lives in hospitals. 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.

"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."

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Dr Ghebreyesus said that pandemic "is not a word to use lightly or carelessly."

He 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."

He said that describing the situation as a pandemic "does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed" by the 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. 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."

The medical chief said his organisation had been calling "every day" for nations to take "urgent and aggressive action" and had "rung the alarm bell loud and clear."

Dr Ghebreyesus reiterated a statement he made on Monday, that looking at the number of cases and countries hit by the virus does not "tell the full story".

In a sign of hope, he said that, of the 118,000 cases of Covid-19 reported across the world, in 114 countries, "more than than 90 per cent of cases are in just four countries, and two of those – China and South Korea have significantly declining epidemics. 81 countries have not reported any cases, and 57 countries have reported 10 cases or less."

He added: "We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic.

"If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace, and mobilize their people in the response, those with a handful of Covid-19 cases can prevent those cases becoming clusters, and those clusters becoming community transmission.

“Even those countries with community transmission or large clusters can turn the tide on this coronavirus. Several countries have demonstrated that this virus can be suppressed and controlled."

But he questioned whether all countries which have been hit by the disease had the "resolve" to do what was required.

He said: “The challenge for many countries who are now dealing with large Covid-19 clusters or community transmission is not whether they can do the same – it’s whether they will.

“Some countries are struggling with a lack of capacity. Some countries are struggling with a lack of resources. Some countries are struggling with a lack of resolve.”

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