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World Health Organization declares coronavirus outbreak a ‘global pandemic’ after ‘alarming levels of spread’

Tourists, some wearing a mask, queue to enter the Louvre museum Friday in Paris. The world is scrambling to get on top of the new coronavirus outbreak that has spread from its epicenter in China to most corners of the planet. (Rafael Yaghobzadeh/Assoociated Press/TNS)
March 11, 2020

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared coronavirus a global pandemic on Wednesday as the virus has spread rapidly outside its origin of China.

“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 WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We have therefore made the assessment that COVID19 can be characterized as a pandemic.”

WHO had previously declared the virus outbreak a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” on January 30.

Ghebreyesus said that the organization expects to see the number of coronavirus cases rise even higher in the coming days and weeks. The number of deaths and countries with confirmed cases is also expected to increase.

“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,” Ghebreyesus said.

“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. 

Ghebreyesus did note that this is the first pandemic that is controllable, and the organization has called on countries to take aggressive action to change the course of the pandemic.

“Of the 118,000 COVID19 cases reported globally in 114 countries, more than 90 percent of cases are in just four countries, and two of those – China and South Korea – have significantly declining epidemics,” Ghebreyesus said. “81 countries have not reported any COVID19 cases, and 57 countries have reported 10 cases or less.”

According to John Hopkins’ latest tracking data on Wednesday afternoon, there are now 1216584 confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, of which 66,239 have recovered, and 4,373 have died.

In the U.S. alone, there are 1,050 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and 32 Americans have died.