With over 90,000 cases in more than 60 countries, why is WHO not declaring COVID-19 a 'pandemic'?

Even though WHO increased the risk impact of the disease to 'very high' and declared it a 'global health emergency', it has been short at declaring the outbreak, a 'pandemic'

Novel coronavirus, officially called 'Covid-19', was first reported on December 31 in the Chinese city of Wuhan, capital of its Hubei province. Within a span of a little over two months, the deadly disease has spread to over 60 countries, in every continent, except Antarctica.

As on Wednesday, March 4, over 93,000 coronavirus cases along with more than 3,200 fatalities have been reported from around the world. A World Health Organization's official was infected in Iran and the global fatality rate has increased from two percent to 3.4 percent.

WHO's stance on coronavirus outbreak

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WHO has called coronavirus outbreak, an epidemic and not a pandemic. On February 28, the world health body raised coronavirus' global risk of spread and impact, from 'high' to 'very high', Nature reported.

On Monday (March 2), the WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press briefing, "We are in unchartered territory. We have never before seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission, but which can also be contained with the right measures".

Last month, it declared the virus outbreak, a global health emergency. When the WHO chief, was asked whether to refer to the disease, as a pandemic, he replied, "Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely, it has. Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet".

Difference between an 'epidemic' and a 'pandemic'

WHO defines an epidemic as an unexpected spread of disease, within a region. While, according to WHO's 2010 definition of a pandemic, it's a worldwide spread of a new disease.

Thus, while an epidemic is concentrated in a single region, international effort and resources can be devoted to a particular region. This isn't the case in a pandemic, where the disease spreads all over the world, thus the global resources and efforts are divided into different regions.

Why isn't the WHO declaring the disease outbreak, a 'pandemic'?

There can be two reasons: One, because the outbreak can still be contained. Two, to avoid unnecessary panic, the New York Times reported. In a press briefing on Monday, the WHO chief said, "I have said it before and I'll say it again: WHO will not hesitate to describe this as a pandemic if that's what the evidence suggests".

Related topics : Coronavirus