Coronavirus a pandemic: What does that mean and what changes now
New Delhi, Mar 12: The World Health Organization on Wednesday finally declared the novel coronavirus a 'pandemic', citing infections in over 121,000 people worldwide.
Making an announcement on the same WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said "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 characterised as a pandemic."
"This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus. And we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled, at the same time," he added.
What is a pandemic
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a pandemic refers to an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents and usually affects a large number of people.
The word 'pandemic' may be scary but its status has to do more with the spread of the disease, than its severity. It generally just refers to how many parts of the world are dealing with an elevated risk of the disease.
According to the WHO, Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. 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.
What is an epidemic?
An epidemic refers to a more localised or regional outbreak of a disease. It is comparatively affects fewer number of people and is confined to a geographical region.
An epidemic is a Greek word derived from 'epidemia'. While pandemic originates from the word 'pandemos', which means "all people".
For example, the ebola spread that affected western Africa and the SARS outbreak that hit China were considered as an epidemic.
What changes now
Declaring the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO's assessment of the threat posed by this virus. It doesn't change what WHO is doing, and it doesn't change what countries should do.