COVID-19 is a pandemic, the World Health Organization declared in a press briefing Wednesday.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cited not just the leaping numbers of cases, deaths, and countries affected in making the determination but also the slow responses of many countries and governments.
“We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction,” WHO Director-General, who goes by Dr. Tedros, said.
As of Wednesday, there are over 121,000 cases and over 4,370 deaths in at least 114 countries and territories worldwide.
“We expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher,” Dr. Tedros said. He urged countries to be prepared.
The declaration doesn’t change WHO’s response efforts or the recommendations already in place for countries, Dr. Tedros said. And it doesn’t mean that containment is a lost cause, he emphasized. “It would be a mistake to abandon the containment strategy” for countries seeing few or no cases.
Rather, this should be seen as a “trigger” for more aggressive action and responses, Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, added in the briefing. “We need to focus on the job at hand,” he said, referencing outbreak and emergency responses.
In the past weeks, Drs. Tedros and Ryan have bristled at reporters’ repeated questions about when or if a pandemic would be declared over the spread of the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.
“There has been so much attention on one word,” Dr. Tedros said Wednesday. “It’s not a word to use lightly.” But he gave us some other important terms to focus on: preparedness, public health, political leadership, and people. “We’re all in this together.”