coronavirus pandemic

WHO just declared coronavirus a worldwide pandemic

The World Health Organization has officially declared the 2019 novel coronavirus a worldwide pandemic.

Speaking in Geneva this afternoon, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that — after considering the "alarming levels of spread and severity" — the WHO has decided that coronavirus can be considered a pandemic.

The decision comes after the number of coronavirus cases outside China increased 13-fold over two weeks. To date, 114 countries have reported more than 118,000 cases and 4,291 deaths.

Adhanom 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."

He added that changing the label "doesn't change what WHO is doing."

Anticipating a surge of panic, the WHO called for calm, reminding people that more than 90 per cent of coronavirus cases are in four countries — and that China's epidemic is "significantly declining."

Adhanom urged countries to work both together and individually to tackle the growing pandemic, specifically by readying emergency response teams, hospitals and health care workers.

Although the WHO does not have a cut-and-dry definition of a pandemic, their website loosely refers to it as the appearance of a "new influenza virus" to which people have no pre-existing immunity.

This will be Canada's first pandemic since the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, which infected nearly a quarter of the world's population.

Although SARS spread to more than 25 countries, it was not considered to be a pandemic.

There are currently 102 cases of the COVID-19 in Canada. Ontario has 41 cases, British Columbia has 39, Quebec has seven and Alberta has 14.

Lead photo by

World Health Organization

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