The United Nations health agency, the World Health Organisation (WHO), has just declared the Covid-19 coronavirus a pandemic in an announcement on Wednesday. Speaking at a press conference in Geneva, the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that countries must “double down” on efforts to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
On Wednesday, the WHO announced that the global emergency of Covid-19 coronavirus can now be described as a pandemic.
In his announcement, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the WHO is now “deeply concerned by the alarming levels of the coronavirus spread, severity and inaction,” and is expecting that the number of cases, deaths and affected countries continue to climb in the next days and weeks. As of press time, there are over 126,000 confirmed cases of infection across 124 countries and territories globally, and the death toll is 4,633.
While the WHO raised the alarm about the rapid escalation of the coronavirus, especially the 13-fold increase of cases in countries outside of China in the past 2 weeks, the Director-General also pointed out that all countries can still change the course of the pandemic, making it the first ever that can be controlled.
Commenting on the announcement, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres described it as “a call to action – for everyone, everywhere.”
The rapid spread of Covid-19 in recent days has sent markets around the world tumbling, with dramatic fall in shares on Monday – worst since the 2008 financial crisis – now being dubbed “Black Monday”. Monday saw the main financial indexes in the United States closing down by more than 7%, and similar drops took place across Europe and Asia.
The WHO has made several recommendations regarding precautions against Covid-19. Some of these include regularly washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, covering nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing with a flexed elbow or tissue, and avoiding close contact with others. A surgical face mask may also help avoid transmission, particularly in crowded areas.
A number of countries have already put in place drastic restrictions following the WHO’s declaration. Most recently, United States president Donald Trump announced sweeping new travel bans on Europe, which will go into effect this Friday and last for the next 30 days. The United Kingdom will be excluded from the restriction. After the United States’ announcement of travel ban on Europe, the opening minutes of the Hang Seng Index saw a 2.8% drop.
Meanwhile, the Government of India has suspended all tourist visas and e-visas granted on or before Wednesday, and advised all incoming visitors and nationals to avoid non-essential travel.
In other news, quickly following the announcement, actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson revealed that they have both been tested positive for coronavirus in an Instagram post. Hanks shared that both himself and Wilson are now being “tested, observed, and isolated for as long as public health and safety requires,” and will be posting another update soon.
In the United States, the NBA also just announced that it will suspend the season until further notice after a player on the Utah Jazz preliminarily tested positive for the coronavirus. The league says that it will use this time to determine the next steps until the pandemic is brought under control.
Read our earlier news coverage of Covid-19 and prevention tips here.
This post is a part of Green Queen’s partnership with the SDG Media Compact, and is aimed at sharing information and guidance from the World Health Organisation and the United Nations during the pandemic.
Lead image courtesy of Reuters.