Red alert: the novel Coronavirus is now deemed as a pandemic.
World Health Organisation (WHO) chief, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, states that the number of cases outside China had increased 13-fold in just two weeks. He said he was deeply concerned by alarming levels of “spread and severity” of the virus, as well as “inaction” from countries. “We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action.”
A pandemic is, as explained by the WHO, the “worldwide spread of a new disease.” The term is essentially reserved for infectious diseases where there is significant and ongoing person-to-person spread in multiple countries. With a total of 118,000 cases in 114 countries by 11 March 2020, there is no denying that COVID-19 should fall under the pandemic category.
The last time the WHO declared a pandemic was during the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, which infected nearly a quarter of the world’s population. However, the move was criticised for creating unnecessary panic. This is why SARS was not considered a pandemic, despite affecting people in 26 countries, and neither was MERS.
In the case of the new Coronavirus, the use of the word “pandemic” shines light on the importance of countries around the world taking urgent action to respond to their own outbreaks. “We cannot say this loudly enough or clearly enough or often enough – all countries can change the course of this pandemic,” adds Dr Tedros.
On top of that, the WHO is asking all countries to:
1) Activate and scale-up emergency response mechanisms
2) Communicate with people about the risks and how they can protect themselves
3) Find, isolate, test and treat every COVID-19 case and trace every contact
It is everyone’s responsibility to turn the tide on the virus. Together, it is possible.