World Health Organization: Coronavirus Is Officially 'Characterized As A Pandemic'

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, has officially reached the pandemic stage. According to NPR, at least 114 countries have been affected by the virus, which has infected over 120,000 people and killed more than 4,000 thus far.

"This is the first pandemic caused by coronavirus," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Directer-General of the WHO. He added that the last two weeks alone have seen an increase in the number of cases, which has gone up "13-fold" outside of China, and the number of countries affected by the virus has "tripled." Ghebreyesus also addressed the rising death toll from the respiratory virus.

"In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher."
He also said that the organization -- which declared a global emergency in January, according to CNN -- is concerned about the "alarming levels of spread and severity," as well as the way world leaders are handling the outbreak.

After saying that the virus is now officially considered a pandemic, Ghebreyesus said that people should remain calm and not panic because the fight to combat the virus spread is not over.

"It doesn't change what WHO is doing. And it doesn't change what countries should do."

Woman with a face mask
Getty Images | Tomohiro Ohsumi

China has reported the highest number of cases of coronavirus, with Italy also reporting a significant number of cases. In mainland China, 80,773 people have contracted the virus, which has caused the country to go under complete lockdown.

"This is the strangest situation that I've ever lived, these restrictions are similar to times of war," said 26-year-old Lydia Carelli, an intern with the Italian Supreme Court in Rome.

In the United States, Washington, California, and New York have each declared a state of emergency as each state reports more than 100 cases of the virus. Other countries who have reported cases of the virus include Japan, South Korea, Jamaica, and Cyprus.

Despite the increasing number of people affected by the virus, Ghebreyesus said that countries still have the power to "change the course" of the coronavirus pandemic. He noted the changing tide in China, whose new cases of coronavirus appear to have peaked in late January to early February. He said other countries now have to prove they are willing and able to stop the virus.

"We're in this together, to do the right things with calm and protect the people of the world."