COVID-19 has officially been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).
"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," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic."
Ghebreyesus said 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.
A total of 81 countries have not reported any COVID-19 cases, while 57 countries have reported 10 cases or fewer. He said more than 90 percent of the 118,000 COVID-19 cases reported globally in 114 countries are in just four countries. Two of those, China and South Korea, have significantly declining epidemics.
"We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic," the director-general said.
The WHO said some countries are struggling with a lack of capacity, while others are struggling with a lack of resources, and some are struggling with a lack of resolve.
"If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace, and mobilize their people in the response, those with a handful of COVID-19 cases can prevent those cases becoming clusters, and those clusters becoming community transmission," the WHO added. “Even those countries with community transmission or large clusters can turn the tide on this coronavirus. Several countries have demonstrated that this virus can be suppressed and controlled.”
The WHO also said all countries must strike a fine balance between protecting health, minimizing economic and social disruption, and respecting human rights. The WHO reminded all countries to activate and scale up their emergency response mechanisms, communicate with their people about the risks and how they can protect themselves, and to find, isolate, test and treat every COVID-19 case and trace every contact.
"We’re in this together, to do the right things with calm and protect the citizens of the world. It’s doable," said the WHO.
The first cases of COVID-19 were reported in Wuhan, China in late December but the rest of the world didn't find out until weeks later.
Ontario has 41 positive cases as of March 11, 2020. There have been no cases in Chatham-Kent and Windsor-Essex. There was one case in the London area, which has since been resolved.
The WHO said 4,291 people have lost their lives worldwide and thousands more are fighting for their lives in hospitals.
"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," it added.