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Sunday 3 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C

World Health Organization declares spread of coronavirus a pandemic

The director general of the WHO today criticised the “alarming levels of inaction” in relation to the global outbreak.

THE SPREAD OF the new coronavirus Covid-19 has been declared a pandemic, by the World Health Organization (WHO

Tweet by @World Health Organization (WHO) World Health Organization (WHO) / Twitter World Health Organization (WHO) / Twitter / Twitter

Speaking at a press briefing this afternoon, Director General of the WHO Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the number of cases of Covid-19 outside of China has increased 13-fold and the number of countries has tripled.

There are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries and 4,291 people have died. 

“Thousands more are fighting for their lives in hospital,” he said. “In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of Covid-19 cases, the number of deaths and the number of affected countries climb even higher”.”

He said the WHO has been assessing this outbreak and is “deeply concerned” by the levels of spread and severity and by what he described as the “alarming levels of inaction”. 

“We have therefore made the assessment that Covid-19 can be characterised as a pandemic”. 

Speaking to last month, Dr Kim Roberts, Assistant Professor of Virology at Trinity College Dublin, explained the term: / YouTube

“A pandemic simply means that there are cases of the virus in many different countries over lots of parts of the world.”

It’s worth bearing in mind that the word pandemic doesn’t give you any information about the severity of the illness, the number of people who might be infected, it just means that we have transmission of the virus across many different countries. 

The characterisation of the situation as a pandemic does not trigger any specific actions. 

Dr Ghebreyesus said describing the situation as a pandemic does not change the WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by the virus, nor does it change what countries should do. 

“We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action. We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear.”

He urged countries to continue detecting, testing, treating, isolating, tracing and mobilising their people in response to the cases they have so they can prevent clusters and community transmission. 

He said all countries must strike a fine balance between protecting health, minimising economic and social disruption and respecting human rights.

“We’re in this together, do the right things with calm and protect the citizens of the world. It’s doable,” he added.

- with reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha Orla Dwyer.

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