As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in Canada and around the globe, the World Health Organization (WHO) has now officially declared the outbreak a pandemic.
“In the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside Flag of China has increased 13-fold and the number of affected countries has tripled,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director, on Wednesday morning. “There are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 people have lost their lives.”
The WHO, he continued, “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.”
The term pandemic refers to states of disease that sharply increase in populations around the world with infections taking place more or less simultaneously.
It is “not a word to use lightly or carelessly,” said Ghebreyesus. “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.”
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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 added. “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.”
The WHO, he said, “has been in full response mode” since being notified of the first cases.
“Just looking at the number of cases and the number of countries affected does not tell the full story,” said Ghebreyesus. “Of the 118,000 cases reported globally in 114 countries, more than 90% percent of cases are in just four countries, and two of those – Flag of China and Flag of South Korea – have significantly declining epidemics.”
He noted that 81 countries have not reported any cases and 57 countries have reported 10 cases or less.
As such, “we cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic.”
Even countries “with community transmission or large clusters can turn the tide on this coronavirus,” he furthered. “Several countries have demonstrated that this virus can be suppressed and controlled.”
And if “countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace, and mobilize their people in the response, those with a handful of cases can prevent those cases becoming clusters, and those clusters becoming community transmission,” he said. “I remind all countries that we are calling on you to activate and scale up your emergency response mechanisms, communicate with your people about the risks and how they can protect themselves, find, isolate, test and treat every case and trace every contact, ready your hospitals, protect and train your health workers.”
This crisis, he said, “is not just a public health crisis, it is a crisis that will touch every sector.”
As such, “every sector and every individual must be involved in the fight.”