The World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic at a press conference in Geneva today. The move comes as cases from the viral coronavirus strain have increased 13-fold in two weeks, effectively tripling the number of countries that have diagnosed cases.
According to the organization, the global death toll has hit 4,291, from 118,000 reported cases across 114 countries. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted during the conference that, “pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly,” but added that there was still time for officials to curb growth. While the term has already been employed by many medical professionals, the WHO has avoided an official declaration before now.
The organization officially defines pandemic as “the worldwide spread of a new disease,” noting that “viruses that have caused past pandemics typically originated from animal influenza viruses,” which appears to be the case with this novel coronavirus. Notably, the pandemic classification has to do more with the geographical reach of a disease, rather than the specific severity of the condition.
Consensus among officials is that the situation is likely to continue to get worse before it improves. The virus has already had a profound impact on business trade, and day to day life around the globe. Here in the U.S., many of the high-level meetings have largely occurred away from the public, much to the chagrin of many high-level critics.