The World Health Organization determined Wednesday that the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak is now a pandemic and warned that the worst is yet to come.
“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,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday. “In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of COVID19 cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries to climb even higher.”
Governments around the world are trying to take steps to address the ever-changing outbreak of a new coronavirus, which since December has infected more than 118,000 people and killed about 4,300 in 114 countries.
“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,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday.
The virus, known officially as COVID-19, first emerged in China, where health officials Wednesday reported 24 new cases.
While the increase represents a sustained decline from the height of the outbreak in China, the country where the government puts cities on lockdown to prevent inter-community spread is now dealing with an increase in the number of cases arriving from other nations.
That prompted officials in Beijing to order anyone arriving to go into a 14-day quarantine.
Italy follows China’s playbook
Italy has followed China’s playbook after becoming a secondary center of the outbreak with more than 10,000 reported cases so far and cases in numerous other countries linked to people who traveled from Italy. Italians were under a second day of a nationwide lockdown Wednesday with people only able to move around for urgent health and work reasons.
The coronavirus threat prompted German Chancellor Angela Merkel to warn Wednesday that up to 70-percent of Germany’s population could eventually be infected if current conditions continue. Nearly 1,300 people have been infected so far in Germany and two others have died.
Officials in the United States are showing increased concern as the number of cases there surpassed 1,000.
When asked at a congressional hearing Wednesday if the worst of the outbreak has yet to materialize, U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci responded, “I can say we will see more cases and things will get worse than they are right now.”
The congressional hearing was cut short when President Donald Trump called an emergency meeting at the White House, Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney announced before opening the hearing.
Coronavirus symptoms and prevention
To prevent the coronavirus from spreading, the CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using a hand sanitizer if a sink isn’t available. The World Health Organization says people should wear face masks only if they’re sick or caring for someone who is.
“In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of COVID19 cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries to climb even higher.”
“For most people, COVID-19 infection will cause mild illness; however, it can make some people very ill and, in some people, it can be fatal,” the WHO says. “Older people, and those with pre-existing medical conditions (such as cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease or diabetes) are at risk for severe disease.”
The most common symptoms of COVID-19, according to a recent WHO report that draws on more than 70,000 cases in China: fever (in 88% of cases); dry cough (68%); fatigue (38%); sputum/phlegm production (33%).
Shortness of breath occurred in nearly 20% of cases, and about 13% had a sore throat or headache, the WHO said. – (VOA)