In latest coronavirus updates, the World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday (Wednesday, March 11), declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, in lieu of cases outside China increasing 13-fold and the number of countries reporting infection tripling,
A pandemic is defined as the worldwide spread of a new disease over many continents, while an epidemic (which is what COVID-19 was previously) is an outbreak of an illness within a specific community.
WHO declares COVID-19, a pandemic. Photo: Screengrab from WHO Facebook account
Coronavirus update: WHO declares the disease a pandemic
Speaking at a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, WHO’s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that “Covid-19 can be characterised as a pandemic,” and that this was the first time for the organisation to witness a “pandemic sparked by a coronavirus.”
He further stated that the WHO is “deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction”.
“We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear,” Dr Tedros said. “We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: All countries can still change the course of this pandemic.”
Dr Tedros also stressed on the implications the pandemic that has infected more than 120,000 people worldwide, with death tolls of more 4300 across more than 110 countries, has in other sectors.
“This is not just a public health crisis, it is a crisis that will touch every sector. So every sector and every individual must be involved in the fight,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Dr Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, noted that the outbreak spans many countries across the globe, forcing international groups such as WHO and the United Nations to “divide their resources across greater territory than during a regional epidemic,” making a pandemic much more difficult to manage.
The WHO had last declared the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, a pandemic.
Global pandemic harder to manage. Photo: iStock
Coronavirus updates – COVID-19 is more dangerous than the seasonal flu
A top infectious-disease specialist from the United States’ where the disease has now spread to at least 38 states, had reported that the pathogens present in COVID-19 is 10 times deadlier than the seasonal flu.
Experts also predict that an infected individual will usually further pass on the disease to two or three other people, bringing the reproduction rate of the disease of up to twice as high as seasonal flu, which typically infects 1.3 new people.
“Right now the epicentre — the new China — is Europe,” he said. “And there are many people coming back and forth from Europe that are now starting to seed these communities,” reported Dr Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Italy, in particular, is witnessing a mass-scale infection and has seen 827 coronavirus-related deaths and a crippled health sector and economy.
Singapore gov’t cautions the public to be socially responsible
Govt advises Singaporeans to be socially responsible. Photo: iStock
In the face of the newly declared pandemic, the Ministry of Health cautioned the public against irresponsible behaviours such as continuing a normal daily routine and attending social events despite feeling ill and presenting symptoms of COVID-19, which was largely how local transmission between cases occurred.
The Health Ministry shared that this “poser a risk for the wider community, and mean that the precautionary measures implemented by the Government may not work.”
While reminding the public to “do their part and be socially responsible,” the Ministry also advises on the following course of action:
- Minimise social contact when unwell, especially if you have a fever or have developed respiratory symptoms, and even if you present mild symptoms.
- Consult a doctor sooner than later. Do not wait until the symptoms have progressed in severity.
- If unwell, stay home and refrain from going to work or attending social events and other places where the public frequent.
- Avoid doctor-hopping, and visiting many doctors. Seeing the same doctor will enable better care and will ensure that the medical practitioners can make an appropriate assessment if testing for COVID-19 is required.
Advice for parents and children
The government has time and again reminded the public that good personal hygiene is paramount to protecting ourselves and our family from getting COVID-19.
MOH and WHO urge everyone to wash their hands with soap and water frequently (particularly after going to the toilet, coming from a public place, and before and after eating).
Image source: Gov.sg
The government also shared tips on how individuals can protect themselves and their family during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Manage your health by keeping a close watch on your body for symptoms and seek medical attention promptly if you are feeling unwell.
- Maintain clean hands by practising regular handwashing with soap and water especially before handling food or eating, after going to the toilet, or when hands are dirtied by respiratory secretions after coughing or sneezing.
- Minimise contact with those unwell or those showing symptoms of illness.
- Mask up when unwell, stay at home and avoid social gatherings. Wear a mask and see a doctor promptly. If you have a fever or respiratory symptoms (e.g. cough, runny nose), remember to wear a mask and call the clinic ahead of the visit. Avoid taking public transport where possible.
- Monitor the news and stay updated.