While the details of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (nCOVID-19) in Wuhan of China had long checked all the boxes of parameters set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to declare an infectious affliction as a pandemic, the international agency, which the humanity looks up to, made the official announcement today. Was the pressure of China at work?
Declaring coronavirus as a pandemic, the WHO said that so far more than 4,300 people had died worldwide due to this virus; hence, it could be called a pandemic. A disease is declared a pandemic when it spreads to more than one country — via infections and not just by mere magnitude — and threatens the lives of people.
The WHO previously used to apply a six-stage classification that described the process by which a novel influenza virus moved from the first few infections in humans through to a pandemic. This would start with the virus mostly infecting animals, with a few cases where animals infected people and then moved through the stage where the virus began spreading between people and ended with a pandemic when infections from the new virus spread worldwide.
In February 2020, WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic had clarified that “there is no official category (for a pandemic)… For the sake of clarification, WHO does not use the old system of 6 phases — that ranged from phase 1 (no reports of animal influenza causing human infections) to phase 6 (a pandemic) — that some people may be familiar with from H1N1 in 2009”. What was the necessity to change the definition in the middle of an outbreak rather than in normal times?
The issue with the delay in the announcement is that, even by the revised definition of “pandemic” as stated by the WHO spokesperson, coronavirus qualified as a phenomenon of the type more than a month ago.
Sirf News began classifying the spread of coronavirus as a pandemic, beginning 6 February.
Coronavirus has wreaked havoc all over the world, hitting Italy the hardest outside China. Rome has declared a complete lockdown of the European country to prevent the spread of the disease. South Korea and Iran are badly affected too. The Gulf countries have banned the movement of foreigners. India has debarred foreigners from affected countries entry into the country until 15 April.
Explaining the WHO announcement of coronavirus as a pandemic today, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the media that the number of cases outside China had increased thirteen-fold over the past two weeks, urging the agency to make the declaration now. He said the WHO was assessing the outbreak of this deadly virus.
The WHO head tweeted, “@WHO is deeply concerned by the alarming levels of the #coronavirus spread, severity & inaction, & expects to see the number of cases, deaths & affected countries climb even higher. Therefore, we made the assessment that #COVID19 can be characterized as a pandemic.”
It is suspected that Chinese pressure played a role in the delayed announcement by the WHO because it was revealed on multiple occasion that it was trying to suppress the facts about the disease.