WHO declares COVID-19 a pandemic

The World Health Organisation has just declared COVID-19 as a pandemic. This comes 71 days after China first reported the virus which was spotted in Wuhan city. The number of confirmed cases is approaching 120,000 and it involves over 100 countries worldwide.

According to the WHO, the number of COVID-19 cases outside of China has increased 13-fold and the number of affected countries has tripled in the past two weeks. The organisation expects the number of cases, deaths and affected countries to climb even higher. Based on their assessment, they have characterised COVID-19 as a pandemic.

WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom had warned that the Pandemic term should not be used lightly or carelessly as it can cause unreasonable fear if misused which could lead to unnecessary suffering and death. The organisation emphasised that the characterisation of the coronavirus will not change WHO’s ongoing efforts and what countries should do.

WHO also added that this is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus and they have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled.

At the moment, 90% of cases come from four countries and two of them include China and the Republic of Korea, which has shown declining epidemics. WHO stresses that all countries can still change the course of this pandemic. They added that the coronavirus cases can be prevented from becoming clusters if countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilise their people to respond to the reported cases. Even countries with community transmission or large clusters can still turn the tide on the virus.

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The WHO has also shown its gratitude to Iran, Italy and the Republic of Korea for the measures taken to slow the virus and control the epidemics. Just recently, Italy has declared a total lockdown for the entire country to contain the spread of the virus.

You can read the full remarks from the latest media briefing here.

As pointed out by The Verge, the last time WHO declared a pandemic was during the H1N1 outbreak in 2009. However, the declaration was criticised for causing confusion and panic. It was reported that the swine flu virus turns out to be moderate in its effect and governments had stockpiled vaccines which went unused.

As of 6.00pm, 11th of March, there are 119,260 confirmed cases and 4,287 deaths worldwide. Italy is the worst hit outside of China with 10,149 cases and 631 deaths.

Meanwhile, Malaysia currently has 149 confirmed cases and zero deaths recorded so far. Indonesia has 27 recorded cases and they have just reported its first fatality caused by the coronavirus.


Alexander Wong