The coronavirus is now officially a pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared on Wednesday.
As The Associated Press reports, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and his agency had been reluctant to use the politically- and emotionally-charged word to refer to the situation. But following weeks of what he called “alarming inaction” by some governments across the world, Ghebreyesus invoked the P-word in order to be unambiguous about the severity of what’s happening.
“We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action. We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear,” he said.
However, he added that it’s not too late, saying that if countries “detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilize their people in the response,” then collectively the world can “change the course” of this virus.
After having emerged in China and having ravaged the country, the frontlines of the fight against the virus are now in Italy, the hardest-hit European country, and Iran.
But Ghebreyesus colleague, WHO emergencies chief Dr. Mike Ryan, warned that Italy and Iran won’t be the only countries to be ravaged by this virus.
“They’re suffering but I guarantee you other countries will be in that situation soon,” he said.
Italy’s response to the virus has been nothing short of extraordinary, effectively locking down the northern part of the country at first, then later locking down the entire country. That means that among other things, soccer matches are being played in empty stadiums; school is out until further notice; travel into, out of, and within the country is severely restricted; and restaurants and bars must keep patrons a certain distance from one another.
In the United States, as of this writing, there have been 983 confirmed cases of people coming down with COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, with 29 deaths.
The effects of the virus in the U.S. are showing up in news headlines on a daily basis. For instance, in Ohio, as Dayton Daily News reports, riot police were called in after University of Dayton students rioted following being told that the school will be closed until further notice, that classes will be conducted online, and that students must return home.
And as reported by The Inquisitr, a New Jersey woman was arrested for allegedly concocting a fake hand sanitizer and selling it to store customers, resulting in four children getting chemical burns.
Worldwide, there have been about 115,000 cases of coronavirus reported worldwide, and about 4,300 deaths from the disease it causes.