The spread of the coronavirus is likely already a pandemic under World Health Organization (WHO) criteria, Dr. Rebecca Fischer of Texas A&M School of Public Health's Epidemiology & Biostatistics department told Al Arabiya English.
Coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, has continued to spread across the world, prompting some to wonder when the virus will be declared as a pandemic. The virus has currently infected over 106,000 people, with over 3,500 deaths.
“Most epidemiologists would agree that the spread of COVID-19 already constitutes a pandemic. Even using the WHO guidelines on pandemic criteria, and the designation as Phase 5 – High Risk suggests a pandemic is underway,” Fischer said.
Fischer quickly noted that a formal declaration of pandemic does not change anything with respect to the virus. “It does not mean the virus is spreading at a more rapid rate or that it has become more deadly. It is simply a signal to the world that containment efforts are not holding it at bay, and all governments, health, and response entities worldwide should respond with stringent mitigation efforts,” she added.
The coronavirus is currently classified as an epidemic, a regional outbreak of an illness that spreads unexpectedly. A pandemic is “the worldwide spread of a new disease,” according to the WHO. The Director-General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned last week that countries should prepare for a “potential pandemic” as coronavirus cases began increasing outside of the virus’s origination point in China.
When asked as to the likelihood of the coronavirus reaching a worst-case scenario, Fischer said, “It is extremely unlikely that a worst-case scenario would be reached.” However, should it occur she said that it “might land somewhere between cases mirroring a seasonal flu epidemic and the H1N1 pandemic of 2009.”
The coronavirus spread first from Wuhan, China, in late 2019, and has since had a disastrous effect on the economy, tourism, and supply chains.
Airlines and civil aviation authorities have moved to restrict travel to hotspots of the deadly coronavirus around the world, including China, Iran, South Korea, and Italy. On Tuesday, Chinese authorities announced they would be quarantining passengers from the other four virus hotspots for two weeks in a bid to prevent the virus from spreading further.