Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
WHO officially announced during a press conference today that the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak is a pandemic.
“WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock, and we’re deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming level of inaction,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, MSc, said during the press briefing. “We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.”
The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States has surpassed 1,000, and the Transportation Security Administration announced that three TSA workers from the San Jose International Airport tested positive for the virus.
During a hearing held by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the number of cases will continue to rise, and the severity of nation’s outbreak will depend on its response.
“Bottom line — it’s going to get worse,” he said.
Tedros explained that the number of cases worldwide has surpassed 118,000 and are now in 114 countries. In addition, he said that there has been a 13-fold increase in cases outside of China — where the virus originated — in the last 2 weeks.
“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly,” Tedros said. “It’s a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.”
He noted that this marks the first pandemic of a coronavirus, and the first pandemic the organization has seen that can be controlled.
Individual countries should determine an approach to the pandemic that balances the protection of public health, minimizes social and economic impact and respects human rights, according to Tedros.
“This is not just a public health crisis,” he said. “It is a crisis that will touch every sector, so every sector and every individual must be involved in the fight.”
Tedros stressed that countries’ strategies to minimize the impact of the pandemic should focus on efforts to prepare for the pandemic, detect and treat cases of COVID-19, reduce further transmission and to innovate and learn more about the virus.
He also said that WHO is calling for countries to be active, increase their emergency response mechanisms and let citizens know about their risks.
“We’re in this together to do the right things with calm, and protect the citizens of the world,” Tedros said. “It’s doable.”– by Erin Michael
Disclosures: Fauci and Tedros report no relevant financial disclosures.