WHO has declared the COVID-19 a pandemic in light of both the alarming levels of its spread and severity, and “the alarming levels of inaction“. This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus. 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.
Note: A pandemic does not mean that it has become more deadly, it is an acknowledgement of its global spread.
Latest data reveal there are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 people have lost their lives.
Speaking at the daily COVID-19 media briefing from WHO HQ on 11 March 2020, Dr Tedros, WHO Director-General said:
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.
However, describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this virus, he noted. It does not change what WHO is doing or what countries should do.
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.
To prevent infections and save lives, Dr Tedros said, countries must take a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach, built around a comprehensive strategy.
The four key areas of focus should be:
- First, prepare and be ready.
- Second, detect, protect and treat.
- Third, reduce transmission.
- Fourth, innovate and learn.
On the bright side, several countries have demonstrated that this virus can be suppressed and controlled.
For example, WHO Director General applauded measures being taken in Iran, Italy and the Republic of Korea to slow the virus and control their epidemics.
The challenge for many countries who are now dealing with large clusters or community transmission is not whether they can do the same – it’s whether they will.
Some countries are struggling with a lack of capacity, lack of resources or lack of resolve.
Let me give you some other words that matter much more, and that are much more actionable. Prevention. Preparedness. Public health. Political leadership. And most of all, people. We’re in this together, to do the right things with calm and protect the citizens of the world. It’s doable.
Watch his speech here:
Epidemic VS Pandemic
The COVID-19 outbreak has so far been described as an epidemic, meaning that it has been spreading to many people, and many communities, at the same time. Labeling the spread a pandemic, indicates that it has officially spread around the world, and is also a reflection of the WHO’s concern at what it calls the “alarming levels of the coronavirus spread, severity and inaction”, and the expectation that the number of cases, deaths and affected countries will continue to climb.