In a statement on Wednesday, the World Health Organization has officially classified the novel coronavirus outbreak as a global pandemic.
According to the Director-General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the number of cases of COVID-19 has increased thirteen fold and the number of affected countries has tripled over the past two weeks.
This, combined with the expectation that the number of cases, deaths, and affected countries will climb even higher in the coming days and weeks has led the UN agency to declare this outbreak a pandemic.
A ‘pandemic’ is defined by Merriam-Webster as ‘an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population’.
“This is not just a public health crisis, it is a crisis that will touch every sector – so every sector and every individual must be involved in the fight,” said Dr. Tedros in a media briefing on Wednesday.
“I have said from the beginning that countries must take a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach, built around a comprehensive strategy to prevent infections, save lives and minimize impact.”
As a result, the WHO is calling on all countries to:
- scale up emergency response mechanisms,
- communicate the risks to the public and inform them on ways to protect themselves,
- test every possible COVID-19 case and their close contacts,
- prepare hospitals, and
- protect and train health workers.
“We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic,” he reiterated.”
“If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace, and mobilize their people in the response, those with a handful of cases can prevent those cases becoming clusters, and those clusters becoming community transmission.”
As of the time of publication, the total number of COVID-19 patients worldwide has risen to 124,968.
Nearly 4,600 people have died from the illness and 67,050 have made a fully recovery.