The coronavirus, declared a pandemic by the WHO: what it means and how the situation changes

Finally, the World Health Organization has just classified the coronavirus as a pandemic. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director of the organization has explained that the disease already affects more than 118,000 people in 114 countries. "The WHO has been evaluating this outbreak in real time and we are deeply concerned with both the alarming levels of spread and the alarming levels of inaction." With this in mind: "We have assessed that COVID19 [has qualified to] be characterized as a pandemic"

What is an epidemic?

Claudio Schwarz

Essentially, a pandemic is an epidemic that occurs on a global scale. In the old WHO evaluation scheme, there were six phases that started with "low risk or phase 1" and ended with "pandemic or phase 6". To reach phase 6 the disease had to be a massive and continuous contagion that crossed borders and affected a large number of people.

However, since the 2009 flu epidemic, and although it remained in the institution's glossaries, the WHO had stopped using the term, considering that "if used incorrectly, it may cause unreasonable fear or unwarranted acceptance that the fight it's over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death. " In recent days, however, he had begun to argue that they could get it back.

And so it has been. At his press conference on Wednesday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced that, although "pandemic is not a word to be used lightly or carelessly," the WHO had decided to take the plunge.

What does it mean? Why has it taken so long?


The truth is that the situation does not change too much. The same director explained that "describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO's assessment of the threat posed by the coronavirus. It does not change what WHO is doing, and it does not change what countries should do." Why do it then?

It is not the first time that the WHO uses the disease classification system to draw attention to health phenomena that it considers to be neglected. In July 2019, the Organization declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a "public health emergency of international importance" with the explicit intention that "the world take note" of the epidemic and increase funds and resources. resources to stop it.

In this case we are faced with a similar situation. For weeks, the WHO has been warning that the world is not preparing adequately for the threat posed by the virus and, as the director of the organization has explained, he hopes that this qualification will make it clear to the authorities that the danger is very real and that it is time to have measurements. Therefore, the declaration of a pandemic must be understood in its real context; that is, as a measure of pressure for the world to act while it is possible to contain its effects.

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