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WHO chief officially characterizes COVID-19 as a pandemic

The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially characterized the situation with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as a pandemic, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated during Wednesday’s briefing in Geneva.

​​​​​​”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,” the WHO chief stated.

“We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic,” he said.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reminded that the disease had spread to 114 countries, with over 118,000 people infected.

“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,” he 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.”

“We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus,” the WHO chief stressed. “We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action. We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear.”

“81 countries have not reported any COVID-19 cases, and 57 countries have reported 10 cases or less,” the WHO chief stressed. “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 the response, those with a handful of COVID-19 cases can prevent those cases becoming clusters, and those clusters becoming community transmission,” he added.

“All countries must strike a fine balance between protecting health, minimizing economic and social disruption and respecting human rights,” he stressed.

In late December 2019, Chinese authorities notified the World Health Organization (WHO) about an outbreak of a previously unknown pneumonia in the city of Wuhan, central China. According to Chinese authorities, about 80,700 people have been infected with the virus in the country. The death toll has exceeded 3,100, while about 61,400 patients have recovered. WHO declared the outbreak of the novel coronavirus a global health emergency and named the virus COVID-19. The largest outbreaks of COVID-19 outside of China have been detected in South Korea, Iran and Italy.

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