Organization says its deeply concerned by “alarming levels of inaction”
“All countries can still change the course of this pandemic”, says director general
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The World Health Organization has officially classified the globally spreading novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as a pandemic, saying it is “deeply concerned” by the rate of the spread and severity, and by the “alarming levels on inaction”.
This comes nearly two months after the COVID-19 outbreak was confirmed in China, the epicenter of the potentially deadly virus.
As of Wednesday morning, health officials reiterated there were no suspected, reported of confirmed cases of the virus in The Bahamas.
However, debunked reports of suspected cases made the rounds on social media.
“In the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold and the number of affected countries has tripled,” WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom posted on the organization’s Twitter page around 12.30pm.
“There are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries and 4,291 people have lost their lives.
He continued: “Thousands more are fighting for their lives in hospitals. In the days and weeks agreed, we expect to see the number of COVID-19 cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher.
“WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.
“We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.”
Globally, there are more than 118,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 114 countries.
More than 90 percent of these cases stem from just four countries in China and Japan, where there have been significantly declining epidemics.
Eighty-one countries, including The Bahamas, have not reported any cases, and 57 countries have reported fewer than 10 cases.
“We cannot say this loudly enough or clearly enough or often enough; all countries can still change the course of this pandemic,” Adhanom said.
“If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilize their people in their response, those with a handful of COVID-19 cases can prevent those cases becoming clusters, and those clusters becoming community transmission.”
Adhanom cautioned against the misuse of the characterization, noting the word pandemic, when misused, can cause “unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death”.
He said the assessment does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed nor will it change what the organization is doing, and it should not change what countries should do to combat the virus.
While noting the organization has never before seen a pandemic sparked by a strain of Coronavirus, this is the first time WHO has seen a pandemic that can be controlled.
“WHO has been in full response mode since we were notified of the first cases,” Adhanom said.
“We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action.
“We have run the alarm bell loud and clear.”
WHO noted that some countries continue to struggle with a lack of capacity, resources and resolve.
The Bahamian government has said it is prepared and adequately resources to handle the virus, and continues to shore up its healthcare facilities, protocols and training and the virus creeps closer.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands said officials predicted the virus could be assessed as a pandemic within days.
At the time, Sands stressed the classification would not change the diligent work being undertaken in The Bahamas to protect the safety of its people and visitors.