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The World Health Organization has declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a global “pandemic.”
During a media briefing Wednesday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the WHO, said there are now more than 118,000 cases of COVID-19 in 114 countries, with 4,291 deaths.
He said in the days and weeks ahead, they expect to see the number of cases and deaths “climb even higher,” and expressed concern over the levels of “inaction” in some countries.
“We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action,” Tedros said. “We have rung the bell loud and clear.”
Tedros stressed that there is still an opportunity for countries to reverse the course of the outbreak if they work to contain the spread.
“All countries can still change the course of this pandemic,” Tedros said. “If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilize their people in the response.”
Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO’s executive director of emergency operations, warned that inaction could cause health systems to become overwhelmed.
Italy, which has some 10,000 cases, and Iran, which has reported nearly 9,000 illnesses, are among the hardest-hit countries in recent days, but Ryan warned that other regions may not be far behind.
“It is not the time for countries to move toward mitigation only,” Ryan said, warning that “if you do not try to suppress this virus, it can overwhelm your health system.”
“At the very least, [containment] will take the pressure off and reduce the burden and allow your health system to remain in control and achieve some success in reducing cases.”
COVID-19 is the first coronavirus to be labeled a pandemic, Tedros said, but added that the health agency believes that it will also be the first to be contained based on the success seen in several countries.
This is a developing story check back for updates.