WHO Declares COVID-19 a Pandemic

March 11th, 2020

The World Health Organization (WHO) has now called the coronavirus infection a pandemic. Here’s what you need to know:
Excerpts from the WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the Mission briefing on COVID-19 – 12 March 2020

“This is not a decision we took lightly.

We have made this assessment for two main reasons: first, because of the speed and scale of transmission.

Almost 125,000 cases have now been reported to WHO, from 118 countries and territories. In the past two weeks, the number of cases reported outside China has increased almost 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has almost tripled.

The second reason is that despite our frequent warnings, we are deeply concerned that some countries are not approaching this threat with the level of political commitment needed to control it.

“This is a controllable pandemic. Countries that decide to give up on fundamental public health measures may end up with a larger problem, and a heavier burden on the health system that requires more severe measures to control. We are calling on countries to take a four-pronged strategy:

First, prepare and be ready.

There are still 77 countries and territories with no reported cases, and 55 countries and territories that have reported 10 cases or less. And all countries with cases have unaffected areas. You have an opportunity to keep it that way. Prepare your people and your health facilities.

Second, detect, prevent and treat.

You can’t fight a virus if you don’t know where it is. That means robust surveillance to find, isolate, test and treat every case, to break the chains of transmission.

Third, reduce and suppress.

To save lives we must reduce transmission. That means finding and isolating as many cases as possible, and quarantining their closest contacts. Even if you cannot stop transmission, you can slow it down and protect health facilities, old age homes and other vital areas – but only if you test all suspected cases.

And fourth, innovate and improve.

This is a new virus and a new situation. We’re all learning and we must all find new ways to prevent infections, save lives, and minimize impact. All countries have lessons to share.

As I keep saying, we’re all in this together.