The new Coronavirus (COVID-19) Is Now Officially A Pandemic, WHO declares

It's the first time the WHO has called an outbreak a pandemic since the H1N1 "swine flu" in 2009.
March 12, 2020 | 04:47
the new coronavirus covid 19 is now officially a pandemic who declares

Here, workers in Spain place a medical mask on a figure that was to be part of the Fallas festival in Valencia. The festival has been canceled over the coronavirus outbreak. Alberto Saiz/AP

The coronavirus (COVID-19) sweeping across the world is a pandemic, the World Health Organization declared. There are now over 118,000 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in 114 countries around the world.

The COVID-19 viral disease that has killed more than 4,000 people is now officially a pandemic, the World Health Organization announced Wednesday.

A pandemic is the “worldwide spread of a new disease”

There’s no cut-and-dry criteria for what reaches the level of pandemic and what does not, and there is no threshold of cases or deaths that triggers the definition.

The WHO classified the novel coronavirus as a global public health emergency on January 30th. Until now, they’ve been reluctant to call the outbreak a pandemic over concerns that it would incite unnecessary panic, though they’d been warning countries to prepare for a pandemic. “Using the word pandemic now does not fit the facts, but it may certainly cause fear,” Adhanom said at a press briefing at the end of February. “What we see are epidemics in different parts of the world affecting different countries in different ways.

"This is the first pandemic caused by coronavirus," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared at a briefing in Geneva.

It's the first time the WHO has called an outbreak a pandemic since the H1N1 "swine flu" in 2009.

Even as he raised the health emergency to its highest level, Tedros said hope remains that COVID-19 can be curtailed. And he urged countries to take action now to stop the disease.

Tedros said: "We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action. We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear."

Eight countries are now each reporting more than 1,000 cases of COVID-19, caused by the coronavirus that has infected nearly 120,000 people worldwide.

"In the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has tripled," Tedros said.

"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."

The spread of the virus can still be controlled, Adhanom said. He pointed to both China and South Korea, where outbreaks appear to be declining. “It’s doable.”

The WHO is "deeply concerned, both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction" by world leaders in response to the outbreak, Tedros said.

By dubbing COVID-19 a pandemic, the WHO is placing it in a different category than several recent deadly outbreaks, including the recent Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Zika virus outbreak in 2016 and the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. All three of those outbreaks were deemed to be international emergencies.

In the last pandemic, the H1N1 influenza virus killed more than 18,000 people in more than 214 countries and territories, according to the WHO. In recent years, other estimates have put H1N1's toll even higher.

Still, Tedros said that people should not fear the designation and that it should not be taken to mean that the fight against the virus is over.

"Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO's assessment of the threat posed by the virus," Tedros said. "It doesn't change what WHO is doing. And it doesn't change what countries should do."

The WHO had declared the outbreak a global health emergency in January, as cases surged in China, where the novel coronavirus was first detected.

In Italy, more than 630 people have died of COVID-19, and the total number of cases continues to rise sharply. The country now has 10,000 cases, second only to China. There are 9,000 cases in Iran and more than 7,700 in South Korea.

Vietnam confirmed 3 new COVID-19 infections, raising total to 38

As of March 11 afternoon, Vietnam has confirmed 38 COVID-19 infections, 16 cases of which have recovered and discharged from hospital, the remaining 22 are being quarantined and under treatment.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has instructed ministries and localities to speed up preparations of facilities, human resources and develop plans for large-scale quarantine.

Under the PM's directive issued Wednesday, everyone traveling from or transiting through areas with the Covid-19 epidemic must be placed under concentrated quarantine upon entering Vietnam. They would subsequently be screened for appropriate anti-epidemic measures to avoid cross infection.

Starting from Thursday, Vietnam would temporarily stop granting visa-free entry to ethnic Vietnamese and their families from the following European countries: Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, the U.K, France, Germany and Spain.

Those four nations are all imposing drastic measures in an attempt to slow the spread of the COVID-19 illness, which has a higher fatality rate for elderly people and those with underlying health conditions.

Those countries also have more than 90% of current cases, Tedros noted, adding that both China and South Korea have had success in reining in their epidemics. Data from China, he said, showed that the number of new cases there peaked in late January and early February.

"We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: All countries can still change the course of this pandemic," Tedros said.

However, the viral disease continues to spread around the globe.

"In the Americas, Honduras, Jamaica and Panama, are all confirming coronavirus infections for the first time," NPR's Jason Beaubien reports. "Elsewhere, Mongolia and Cyprus are also now reporting cases."

As the outbreak has ballooned, so has speculation that the WHO would declare it a pandemic. But Tedros said WHO experts had previously determined that the scale of the coronavirus' impact didn't warrant that description. And he noted that declaring the outbreak a pandemic would raise the risk of a public panic.No Guarantee You'll Get Tested For COVID-19, Even If Your Doctor Requests It

It's now up to other countries to prove they can stop the disease, Tedros reiterated.

the new coronavirus covid 19 is now officially a pandemic who declares
Staff at Tràng An ecotourism complex in the northern province of Ninh Bình check the temperatures of all tourists to the site and asked them to wear face masks. — VNA/VNS

Coronavirus symptoms and prevention

To prevent the coronavirus from spreading, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using a hand sanitizer if a sink isn't available.

The World Health Organization says people should wear face masks only if they're sick or caring for someone who is.

"For most people, COVID-19 infection will cause mild illness; however, it can make some people very ill and, in some people, it can be fatal," the WHO says. "Older people, and those with pre-existing medical conditions (such as cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease or diabetes) are at risk for severe disease."

The most common symptoms of COVID-19, according to a recent WHO report that draws on more than 70,000 cases in China, are the following: fever (in 88% of cases), dry cough (68%), fatigue (38%) and sputum/phlegm production (33%).

Shortness of breath occurred in nearly 20% of cases, and about 13% had a sore throat or headache, the WHO said.

Researchers at the Miguel Institute of Kiryat Shmona (Israel), supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Agriculture, say it has achieved a scientific breakthrough for the vaccine against the Corona virus.

The institute said that from the research conducted by the researchers: Prof. Jacob Pitkowski, Dr. Chen Katz, Dr. Ehud Shahar and their team – found that the Coronavirus in the birds has a high genetic identity to the human Coronavirus. The study also found that the infection mechanism of both viruses is the same.

Institute CEO David Zigdon explained: “There is a high urgency in developing a human vaccine for the Corona virus, so we are working to accelerate the development process to reach an effective COVID-19 vaccine over the next 8-10 weeks and a 90-day safety trial. The vaccine developed by us for poultry is oral and also the human vaccine offered by us is expected to be oral. ”

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