A pandemic is described as the “worldwide spread of a new disease.” Time clarifies, “The declaration refers to the spread of a disease, rather than the severity of the illness it causes.” In declaring COVID-19 a pandemic, WHO cited over 118,000 cases in over 110 countries and territories.
The declaration is a signal for governments to prepare for possible community transmission and to step up efforts to manage the effects of the disease. “We should double down and we should be more aggressive. That's what we are saying,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, according to ABC News.
In February, WHO said they were being “extremely cautious” about classifying COVID-19 as a pandemic because they hadn’t observed “efficient community transmission” outside China, where it was first identified.
Yesterday, Ghebreyesus said, “Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.”
He clarified, “Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this coronavirus.”
The last disease that the WHO classified as a pandemic was the H1N1 influenza virus in 2009. “We had lots of controversies during the H1N1 situation, around when it was pandemic and when it wasn’t pandemic, and I think we need to be careful,” Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said in February.
In the Philippines, there are now 49 confirmed cases. Yesterday, the Department of Health confirmed the death of a 67-year-old woman, the first Filipino national casualty. She’s the second patient to die of COVID-19 in the country, with the first being a 44-year-old Chinese man.
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