WHO officially declares coronavirus a pandemic

Respiratory virus has spread to 114 countries, prompting the announcement

epa08286538 (FILE) - Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), informs the media about the update on the situation regarding the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), during a new press conference, at the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, 10 February 2020 (reissued 11 March 2020). Reports on 11 March 2020 state Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said the novel coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak 'can be characterised as a pandemic'.  EPA/SALVATORE DI NOLFI
Powered by automated translation

The coronavirus outbreak has officially been categorised as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.

On Wednesday evening, the WHO said that the number of cases outside China had risen 13-fold, while the number of affected countries tripled in the past two weeks.

"The 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," said director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

"Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly.”

There are more than 118,000 reported cases in 114 countries, with at least 4,291 deaths.

"Thousands more are fighting for their lives in hospitals,” Dr Tedros said.

He said he expected the number of affected countries to rise.

Dr Tedros said 81 countries had reported no cases and 57 countries had fewer than 10 infected patients.

He urged governments to take stronger preventive action.

"We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action," Dr Tedros said. "We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear.

"We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough. All countries can still change the course of this pandemic."

He said several countries, including South Korea and China, proved the virus could be suppressed and controlled.

Some countries are dealing with a lack of capacity or resources, while others struggle with a lack of resolve, Dr Tedros said.

America’s top infectious disease specialist told US politicians that the coronavirus pathogen is 10 times deadlier than seasonal flu.

Meanwhile, Iran's first vice president Eshaq Jahangiri had coronavirus diagnosed.

Mr Jahangiri is the highest-ranking official to contract the illness known as Covid-19.

The Kuwait government grounded all commercial flights from Friday and announced a two-week public holiday that will close all workplaces until March 26.

The number of confirmed cases in Qatar jumped by 238 to 262, the Health Ministry said.

And Lebanon announced all flights to and from Italy, Iran, South Korea and China would be suspended.

Lebanese citizens hoping to return home from countries with high infection rates were given a four-day deadline.

After that, travel to France, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Germany, Spain and the UK would be suspended.