Coronavirus: World Health Organization declares COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic

Women wear protective face masks at Imam Ali Shrine, following an outbreak of coronavirus, in the holy city of Najaf. (Reuters)

The new coronavirus outbreak can now be characterized as a pandemic, the head of the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

“We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action. We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO chief.

“All countries can still change the course of this pandemic. If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilize their people in the response," he said.

“We are deeply concerned by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction.”

Iran and Italy are the new front lines of the battle against the virus that started in China, the WHO said.

“They’re suffering but I guarantee you other countries will be in that situation soon," said Dr. Mike Ryan, the WHO's emergencies chief.
He added that the agency thought long and hard about labeling the crisis a pandemic — meaning a new virus causing sustained outbreaks in multiple regions of the world.

The risk of employing the term, Ryan said, is “if people use it as an excuse to give up.”

 

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Last Update: 06:57 KSA 09:57 - GMT 06:57
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