The new coronavirus outbreak can now be characterised as a pandemic, the head of the World Health Organization said on Wednesday, while emphasising that the new classificaiton did not change anything in its threat assessment or advice.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was alarmed by the spread and severity of the outbreak, along with a lack of action taken to combat it.
"COVID-19 can be characterised as a pandemic," he told reporters in Geneva. A pandemic is an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population.
The WHO boss said he expected the number of cases and deaths would grow in the coming days and weeks, declaring "we have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus."
No panic in pandemic
Tedros said that several countries had demonstrated that the virus could be suppressed and controlled.
He underlined that the new classification of the outbreak did not change anything in the WHO's assessment of the threat posed by the virus: “It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do”.
Tedros also urged people not to focus on the word “pandemic”, but to keep in mind five other words or phrases beginning with “p”: Prevention, Preparedness, Public health, Political leadership and People.
Tedros said hard-hit Iran was trying its best to control the outbreak but needed more supplies.
Meanwhile in Europe, figures suggest the number of Coronavirus cases in Europe is now over 22,000 with 930 deaths.
The WHO said this week it was "normal and understandable to feel anxious" in these days, "especially if you live in a country or community that has been affected" by the coronavirus.
In France, President Emmanuel Macron is to address the nation tomorrow evening about the subject.
Gatherings of more than one thousand people are now banned in France and Macron could announce new measures tomorrow.