GENEVA — Expressing alarm both about mounting infections and
inadequate government responses, the World Health Organization declared
Wednesday that the global coronavirus crisis is now a pandemic but added
that it’s not too late for countries to act.
By reversing course
and using the charged word “pandemic” that it had previously shied away
from, the U.N. health agency sought to shock lethargic countries into
pulling out all the stops.
“We have called every day for countries
to take urgent and aggressive action. We have rung the alarm bell loud
and clear,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO chief.
countries can still change the course of this pandemic. If countries
detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilize their people in the
response,” he said. “We are deeply concerned by the alarming levels of
spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction.”
The WHO said Iran and Italy are the new front lines of the battle against the virus that started in China.
suffering but I guarantee you other countries will be in that situation
soon,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies chief.
that the agency thought long and hard about labeling the crisis a
pandemic — meaning a new virus causing sustained outbreaks in multiple
regions of the world.
The risk of employing the term, Ryan said, is “if people use it as an excuse to give up.”
But the benefit is “potentially of galvanizing the world to fight.”
the mounting challenge: The case count outside China has multiplied
13-fold over the last two weeks to over 118,000, with the disease now
responsible for nearly 4,291 deaths, WHO said.
“If you want to be
blunt, Europe is the new China,” said Robert Redfield, the head of the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
imposing even tighter restrictions on daily life and announced billions
in financial relief Wednesday to cushion economic shocks from the
For most, the coronavirus causes only mild or
moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for a few, especially
older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more
severe illnesses, including pneumonia.
But most people recover.
People with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with
more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover, the WHO
In the U.S., the caseload passed 1,000, and outbreaks on both sides of the country stirred alarm.
a Congressional hearing in Washington, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of
the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, sounded an
alarm: “Bottom line, it’s going to get worse.”
said Silvana Gomez, a student at Harvard University, where
undergraduates were told to leave campus by Sunday. “I’m definitely very
scared right now about what the next couple days, the next couple weeks