World Health Organization Declares COVID-19 is Now a Pandemic

March 11, 2020, 7:02 AM HST · Updated March 11, 11:50 AM
Wendy Osher · 0 Comments
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World Health Organization Declares COVID-19 is Now a Pandemic
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*Live feed courtesy: World Health Organization / CDC.

WHO Declares COVID-19 a Pandemic – Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The World Health Organization this morning declared COVID-19 is now a pandemic. The news was shared at a media briefing with organization Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“In the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased thirteen-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,” said Dr. Ghebreyesus in today’s press conference.

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“In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of 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,” said Dr. Ghebreyesus.  “We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.”

“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly.  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. 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,” he said.

“We have never been before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus.  This is the first pandemic caused 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 and we have called everyday for countries to take urgent and aggressive action.  We have rang the alarm bell loud and clear,” said Dr. Ghebreyesus.

“As I said on Monday, just looking at the number of cases, and the number of countries affected, does not tell the full story. Of the 118,000 cases reported globally in 114 countries, more than 90% of cases are in just four countries–and two of those, China and the Republic of Korea, have significantly declining epidemics.  Eighty-one countries have not reported any cases; and 57 countries have reported 10 cases or less,” noted Dr. Ghebreyesus.

“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 their response, those with a handful of cases can prevent those cases becoming clusters, and those clusters becoming community transmission,” said Dr. Ghebreyesus.

The WHO summarized four key areas: (1) prepare and be ready; (2) detect, protect and treat; (3) reduce transmission; and (4) innovate and learn.

From the Monday, March 9, 2020 Press Briefing:

“Now that the virus has a foothold in so many countries, the threat of a pandemic has become very real.  But it would be the first pandemic in history that could be controlled. The bottom line is, we are not at the mercy of the virus.  The great advantage that we have is the decisions we all make as government, businesses, communities, families and individuals can influence the trajectory of this epidemic.  We need to remember that with decisive, early action, we can slow down the virus and prevent infections.  Among those who are infected, most will recover,” said Dr. Ghebreyesus in a press conference earlier this week.

“It’s also important to remember that looking only at the total number of reported cases and the total number of countries, doesn’t tell the full story, except the potential the virus has,” said Dr. Ghebreyesus.  “It’s not about containment or mitigation, which is a false dichotomy. It is about both.  Bot containment and mitigation.  All countries must take a comprehensive blended strategy for controlling their epidemics and pushing this deadly virus back.”

“Countries that continue finding and testing cases and tracing their contacts will not only protect their own people–they can also affect what happens in other countries and globally,” said Dr. Ghebreyesus.

Guidance by the WHO places countries in four different categories: (1) those with no cases; (2) those with sporadic cases; (3) those with clusters; and (4) those with community transmission.

Click here to view a LIVE global map of the pandemic as it develops. The Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Case map is produced by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

“For all countries, the end is the same: Stop transmission and prevent the spread of the virus,” said Dr. Ghebreyesus.  “For the first three categories, countries must focus on finding, testing, treating and isolating individual cases, and following their contacts. In areas with community spread, testing every suspected case and tracing their contacts becomes more challenging.  Action must be taken to prevent transmission at the community level to reduce the epidemic to manageable clusters. Depending on their context, countries with community transmission can consider closing schools, cancelling mass gatherings and other measures to reduce exposure,” he said.

“The fundamental elements of the response are the same for all countries. Emergency response mechanisms, risk communications and public engagement, case finding and contact tracing, public health measures such as hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and social distancing, laboratory testing, treating patients and hospitals readiness, infection prevention and control, and an all-of-society and all-of-government approach,” said Dr. Ghebreyesus.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. PC: World Health Organization / Twitter.

 

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served nearly 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.

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