The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, as it highlighted that – as of March 11 – there are already over 118,000 cases of the coronavirus illness in over 110 countries and territories around the world, and there is sustained risk of further global spread.
“This is not just a public health crisis, it is a crisis that will touch every sector,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general. “So every sector and every individual must be involved in the fights.”
It was just an “epidemic” before – meaning, there was an uptick in the spread of a disease within a specific community. By contrast, with the “pandemic” declaration, the WHO marks the continuing global spread of the new disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US says the term is used when viruses “are able to infect people easily and spread from person to person in an efficient and sustained way” in multiple regions. The declaration refers to the spread of a disease, rather than the severity of the illness it causes.
“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,” said Ghebreyesus. “Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this coronavirus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do.”
As of March 11, the total cases reached 125,865; with total deaths at 4,615.