WHO declares COVID-19 a pandemic

March 12, 2020

The World Health Organization (WHO) officially characterized the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic.

"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,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement announcing the pandemic declaration.

However, he also urged countries to continue aggressively pursuing strategies to contain and mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this coronavirus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do,” he said.

Summarizing the public health strategies to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, Ghebreyesus said on Twitter that governments should, "detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilize their people in the response, those with a handful of #COVID19 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.”

Ghebreyesus also chastised the efforts “of some countries,” which he did not name specifically, to control the spread of COVID-19 so far, saying that they “are not approaching this threat with the level of political commitment needed to control it,” he said.

Urging governments globally to “double down” on efforts to contain and mitigate the disease, Ghebreyesus, said, “This is a controllable pandemic. Countries that decide to give up on fundamental public health measures may end up with a larger problem, and a heavier burden on the health system that requires more severe measures to control.

The number of cases of COVID-29 continues to climb globally, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, which has been tracking the disease outbreak in real time. As of March 12, there were 127,749 confirmed cases globally and 4,717 deaths, while 68,305 people have recovered from the disease. Johns Hopkins also said COVID-19 has spread to 116 countries and regions.

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