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Mar 12, 2020 / 08:28

WHO labels Covid-19 a global pandemic

The confirmed cases are now seen in 123 countries and territories while death roll surpasses 4,600.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic as it has been found in 123 countries and territories around the globe.

  WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Photo: Newstalk

“This is the first pandemic caused by coronavirus,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared at a briefing in Geneva.

It's the first time the WHO has called an outbreak a pandemic since the H1N1 “swine flu” in 2009.

The declaration was made after the global infections have been on the rise and some world leaders have failed to act quickly enough or drastically enough to contain the spread.


“We’re deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said just before declaring the pandemic.

According to CNBC, declaring a pandemic is charged with major political and economic ramifications, global health experts say. It can further rattle already fragile world markets and lead to more stringent travel and trade restrictions.

WHO officials had been reluctant to declare a global pandemic, which is generally defined as an illness that spreads everywhere throughout the world.

However, “In the past two weeks the number of cases outside China has increased thirteenfold and the number of affected countries has tripled,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom said at a press conference at the organization’s headquarters in Geneva. “In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths and the number of affected countries to climb even higher.”

The problem is “We can not say this loudly enough or clearly enough or often enough: All countries can still change the course of this pandemic,” he said. “Some countries are struggling with a lack of capacity. Some countries are struggling with a lack of resources. Some countries are struggling with a lack of resolve.”

In late January, the WHO had declared the new coronavirus a global emergency as cases surged in China where the novel coronavirus was first detected.

Rising caseload

 Countries with more than 1,000 infections. Source: Johns Hopkins. Chart: Linh Pham

The number of cases and deaths changes by the hour, topping 125,865 with death roll of 4,615 across the world as of late Wednesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Outside China, nearly 33,000 cases have been confirmed in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and the United States from 282 cases in four countries on Jan 21, according to the most recent data confirmed by WHO.

While the virus is slowing in China where it originated in December, 2019, it’s picking up pace in other parts of the world. Italy has the largest cases outside China with more than 12,400 infections, followed by Iran with 9,000 infections and South Korea with 7,755, according to Johns Hopkins University data.