On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) labeled the novel coronavirus as a global pandemic.
“In the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside of China has increased 13-fold and the number of affected countries has tripled. There are now more than 118,000 cases,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, at a media briefing.
Why did WHO wait until now?
Despite calling the coronavirus outbreak a serious, dangerous situation and a threat close to becoming a pandemic, the WHO has until now stopped short of calling the outbreak a pandemic – even after over 4,000 deaths were recorded around the world as a result of the deadly virus.
According to the organization, the reason for the wait before declaring it a pandemic was that there was still “uncertainty about the disease’s impact”, with most countries still having a few cases and containment was not deemed “hopeless.”
What does this mean?
The definition of a pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease, according to the WHO.
Countries around the world have operational plans in place on national and subnational levels in the case of a pandemic when one is declared. A country could go on preventative lockdown, which means its citizens are required to stay home, avoid public gatherings and cancel social events in an effort to contain the spread of a virus. Italy and China have been on nationwide lockdowns since the rapid surge of coronavirus cases in these countries.
A total of 126,483 coronavirus cases have been reported worldwide with 4,636 deaths as of March 12.
Cases dwindle in China
After two months of lockdown, China – the country where the novel coronavirus originated from – may return to its daily routine within days, as the virus transmission numbers have decreased to single digits since it was first reported.
China reported only eight new coronavirus infections in the epicenter of the pandemic in Hubei province on March 11. Outside of the province, only seven cases have been reported in mainland China – six of which are from individuals returning from trips outside the country. China is now reportedly more concerned over imported cases of the coronavirus, stemming from the repatriation of some of its citizens.
According to local authorities, China will again start operating as usual by restarting factories and businesses which have been closed since the Lunar New Year holiday in February.