Coronavirus latest: WHO declares coronavirus outbreak a pandemic

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The World Health Organisation on Wednesday declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.

There are 122,000 cases, more than 4,500 deaths, the agency said, and the virus has found a foothold on every continent except for Antarctica.

“We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. And we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled at the same time,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday.

“Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this coronavirus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do.”

If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilise their people in the response, those with a handful of novel coronavirus cases can prevent those cases becoming clusters, and those clusters becoming community transmission, Ghebreyesus said.
“Several countries have demonstrated that this virus can be suppressed and controlled,”

Ghebreyesus said. A pandemic is defined as the “worldwide spread” of a new disease. Whereas, an outbreak is the occurrence of disease cases in excess of what’s normally expected and an epidemic is more than a normal number cases of an illness, specific health-related behavior or other health-related events in a community or region, according to the World Health Organisation.

In January, the WHO declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. CNN announced on Monday that it is using the term pandemic to describe the current coronavirus outbreak.

The last pandemic reported in the world was the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009, which killed hundreds of thousands globally.

“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,” Ghebreyesus said of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: All countries can still change the course of this pandemic.”

Latest map and casualty’s

“We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: All countries can still change the course of this pandemic.”

A snapshot around the world

The UK has announced the death of a patient in their 70s, taking the number of people who have died from coronavirus in the UK to seven. Diane Wake, Chief Executive of the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust in central England said: “The Trust can confirm that a patient in their 70s being treated for underlying health conditions has died.”

A British woman in Bali has become the first confirmed fatality from COVID-19 in Indonesia.

The United States, the White House is considering moving all of Europe to a Level 3 travel advisory, discouraging all nonessential travel to those regions, according to White House sources.

The US State Department has decided to suspend non-essential travel due to the coronavirus and will only allow mission-critical trips, three sources familiar with the matter said according to Reuters. Trump tweeted: “I am fully prepared to use the full power of the federal government to deal with our current challenge of the coronavirus.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo of the US state of New York said the number of coronavirus cases in New York state has increased to 212, up from 173 the day before. The State University of New York and City University of New York will move to a distance learning model starting on March 19, Cuomo told a press conference.

Denmark is closing all schools and universities immediately to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has said all employees in the public sector with non-critical jobs will be sent home from Friday.

Italy is welcoming China’s offer to send a team of experts to the country to share clinical data about efforts to contain COVID-19. Giovanni Rezza, the head of infectious disease at the National Institutes of Health, said Italy “had a lot to learn” from China. China has also offered to send surplus protective gear, respirators and other equipment. 

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Wednesday that Rome is allocating an additional €25 billion ($28.3 billion) to tackle COVOD-19.

At least 631 Italians have died.

French Health Minister Olivier Veran reported 15 new coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, taking France’s death toll from the outbreak to 48. The total number of confirmed cases now stands at 2,281 — representing an increase of 497 cases on the tally reported Tuesday at 1800 GMT.

Germany has 1,567 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and three people have died from the disease so far. The German institute for infectious diseases also said that handling banknotes doesn’t pose a risk of contracting coronavirus.

Transmission through banknotes has no particular significance,” RKI head Lothar Wieler told Reuters, adding that droplets from infected people were the biggest infection risk.

Brazil’s Sao Paulo stock exchange suspended its operations after the Ibovespa index plunged more than 10% following the WHO’s declaration of the coronavirus pandemic.

Guatemala has said the country will ban the entry of European citizens in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus. Health Minister Hugo Monroy said Wednesday that “starting tomorrow, entry by all European citizens is prohibited.” He did not specify whether the ban is aimed at only citizens from European Union member states.

Guatemala will also ban the entry of citizens from Iran, China and South Korea. The Central American country has yet to confirm any cases of coronavirus.

India will suspend all tourist visas from Friday to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the Home Ministry has announced. “All existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/international organisations, employment, project visas, stand suspended till 15th April 2020,” it said in the statement.

Saudi Arabia has announced it will close cinemas over the coronavirus until further notice, according to a state news agency.

Ireland has reported its first death from the coronavirus, Reuters reported citing the country’s health ministry. 

Kuwait will halt commercial flights starting from Friday until further notice due to fears over the coronavirus.  Lebanon will halt all flights and travel to and from Italy, South Korea, China, and Iran to curb the spread of the disease, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said. Lebanon is also banning entry of passengers from France, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Spain, the UK, and Germany. Lebanese, diplomats, and NGO workers will have four days to return Lebanon.

NATO has halted an Arctic military exercise that was set to take place near Russia. A total of 14,000 troops from 10 countries were meant to take part in the Norway-led drill.

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