The World Health Organization, owing to the global spread and severity of the disease, Wednesday declared the coronavirus a pandemic and urged all the countries to take aggressive action to fight it.
Since the outbreak was reported in Wuhan in Dec 31 last year, the virus has infected 124,519 people in 118 countries and territories and killed 4,607 as of March 12, according to the WHO.
Although most of infections and deaths were reported in China – totaling 80,980 confirmed cases and 3,173 deaths — Chinese authorities reported the record low of only 15 cases on Thursday.
But the infection has been spreading 13-fold outside China in the past two weeks, Italy being the hardest hit region, followed by Iran and Korea.
According to WHO, Italy has 12,462 confirmed cases and 827 deaths; Iran has 9,000 cases and 354 deaths; and South Korea has reported 7,869 cases and 66 deaths.
“In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday.
“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. We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic,” he added.
“WHO has been in full response mode since we were notified of the first cases. And we have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action. 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 added.
The WHO, since the 1968 Hong Kong flu, declared H1N1 a pandemic in June 2009 which spread to over 213 countries and territories and causing at least at least 16,931.
The WHO had declared the virus a global emergency on Jan 31, when only 51 cases were confirmed in 18 countries outside China.