Thursday, March 12, 2020

China: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the Coronavirus a global pandemic.

“WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.

“We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterised as a pandemic,” said WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus in a media briefing on Wednesday evening.

The declaration is informed by the rising numbers of cases of COVID-19 outside China which increased 13-fold in the past two weeks. The number of affected countries has tripled.

There are now more than 118 000 cases in 114 countries and 4 291 people have lost their lives.

“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.

“Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this virus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do,” said the WHO.

Of the 118 000 cases reported globally in 114 countries, more than 90% of cases are in just four countries, and two of those – China and the Republic of Korea – have significantly declining epidemics.

“We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic.

“If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace, and mobilize their people in the response, those with a handful of cases can prevent those cases becoming clusters, and those clusters becoming community transmission,” said Ghebreyesus.

But, the WHO said, even those countries with community transmission or large clusters can turn the tide on the virus.

“Several countries have demonstrated that this virus can be suppressed and controlled.

“The challenge for many countries who are now dealing with large clusters or community transmission is not whether they can do the same – it’s whether they will,” it said.

Ghebreyesus urged countries to strike a fine balance between protecting health, minimising economic and social disruption, and respecting human rights.

“I have said from the beginning that countries must take a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach, built around a comprehensive strategy to prevent infections, save lives and minimize impact,” he said.

The WHO has recommended four key areas for countries to focus on – preparation, detection, protect and treat, reduce transmission and innovate and learn.

“I remind all countries that we are calling on you to activate and scale up your emergency response mechanisms. Communicate with your people about the risks and how they can protect themselves – this is everybody’s business.

“Find, isolate, test and treat every case and trace every contact. Ready your hospitals. Protect and train your health workers,” he said. –