WHO declares novel coronavirus a pandemic

The World Health Organization announced that COVID-19 will now be classified as a pandemic


By Laura French

SWITZERLAND — The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the worldwide outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic at a media briefing on Wednesday. 

"WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming level of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic." 

Ghebreyesus said the number of cases outside of China has increased 13-fold and the number of affected countries has tripled over the last two weeks. There have now been more than 118,000 infections in 114 countries and a total of 4,291 deaths due to the disease, Ghebreyesus 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," Ghebreyesus stated. "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." 

In the United States, there have been 1,050 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of this writing, and 29 patients have died, according to Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering. 

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