WHO characterizes coronavirus as a pandemic, calls for preparation, prevention

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COVID-19, commonly referred to as the coronavirus disease, has been characterized as a pandemic, according to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), in a media briefing earlier today.

“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly,” Tedros said during the meeting. “It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.”

Tedros maintains that describing the situation as a pandemic does not change the WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by COVID-19 and does not change what individual countries should do. The WHO continues remains in “full response mode,” he said, and are calling for countries to take urgent and aggressive action.

However, Tedros said the number of COVID-19 cases and number of affected countries does not tell the full story. At press time, eight countries, including the United States, are reporting more than 1,000 cases of COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the WHO reporting nearly 120,000 cases worldwide. Of the cases reported, more than 90 percent of cases are in four countries, with China and South Korea experiencing significantly declining epidemics.

According to the WHO, 81 countries have not reported any COVID-19 cases and 57 countries have reported 10 cases or less.

“We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic,” said Tedros. "If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace, and mobilize their people in the response, those with a handful of COVID19 cases can prevent those cases becoming clusters, and those clusters becoming community transmission.”

Tedros also said several countries have demonstrated that the virus can be suppressed and controlled. Some countries are dealing with a lack of capacity, resources, and resolve, he said, and measures to slow the virus and control epidemics are taking a heavy toll on societies and economies.

The WHO is reminding countries to ready hospitals, protect and train healthcare workers, activate and scale up emergency response mechanisms, communicate with people about the risks and how to protect themselves, and find, isolate, test, and treat every COVID-19 case and contact.

Tedros said the focus must be on prevention, preparedness, public health, political leadership, and, most of all, people. The WHO compiled a Critical preparedness, readiness and response actions for COVID-19 report for stakeholders. Further, Integrative Practitioner has put together perspectives from several integrative professionals to help patients find empowerment and protect their health.   

“All countries must strike a fine balance between protecting health, minimizing economic, social disruption, and respecting human rights,” said Tedros. “We’re in this together, to do the right things with calm and protect the citizens of the world. It’s doable.”