The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, acknowledging what has seemed clear for some time — the virus will likely spread to all countries on the globe.
Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the situation will worsen.
“We expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher,” said Tedros, as the director general is known.
As of Wednesday, 114 countries have reported that 118,000 have contracted Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, known as SARS-CoV2. In the United States, where for weeks state and local laboratories could not test for the virus, just over 1,000 cases have been diagnosed and 29 people have died. But authorities here warn continuing limits on testing mean the full scale of spread in this country is not yet known, according to STAT news website.
A pandemic is the “worldwide spread of a new disease,” according to the WHO. There’s no cut-and-dry criteria for what reaches the level of pandemic and what does not, and there is no threshold of cases or deaths that triggers the definition.
The WHO classified the novel coronavirus as a global public health emergency on January 30th. Until now, they’ve been reluctant to call the outbreak a pandemic over concerns that it would incite unnecessary panic, though they’d been warning countries to prepare for a pandemic. “Using the word pandemic now does not fit the facts, but it may certainly cause fear,” Adhanom said at a press briefing at the end of February. “What we see are epidemics in different parts of the world affecting different countries in different ways,”the Verge reports.