The World Health Organization (WHO) declared coronavirus a pandemic on Wednesday in an effort to warn countries that weren’t addressing the disease as urgently as necessary.
WHO had been reluctant to escalate the situation in order to avoid public panic, according to The Washington Post. However, by Wednesday the organization saw the need to alert the public in regards to the scale of the outbreak.
“There are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 people have lost their lives,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, per the Post. “In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of coronavirus cases, the number of deaths and the number of affected countries climb even higher.”
WHO is the only global organization that can officially declare a pandemic, which it defines as
“the worldwide spread of a new disease,” Tedros is hopeful that the warning can curb the worst outcomes of the situation.
“We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action. We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear,” Tedros said. “We cannot say this loudly enough or clearly enough or often enough: All countries can still change the course of this pandemic.“