The World Health Organization declares the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic after the virus found a foothold on every continent except for Antarctica.
According to the agency, COVID-19 has infected 118,000 worldwide, and killed more than 4,000.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday, “We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. And we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled at the same time.”
“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 pointed out, “Several countries have demonstrated that this virus can be suppressed and controlled.”
A pandemic is declared when a new disease has spread worldwide, while an epidemic is declared when the number of illness cases, health-related behavior or other health-related event exceeds the normal expectation in a community.
The last pandemic was the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009, which was reported to have killed hundreds of thousands around the globe.
WHO declared COVID-19 as a public health emergency of international concern last January, as the director strongly believes that the virus can be contained.
“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,” Ghebreyesus said.
He added, “We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: All countries can still change the course of this pandemic.”
Former CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden wrote in an article in February that, “This is unprecedented.”
“Other than influenza, no other respiratory virus has been tracked from emergence to continuous global spread. The last moderately severe influenza pandemics were in 1957 and 1968; each killed more than a million people around the world.”