The coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) outbreak has been categorised as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The number of cases outside China had increased 13-fold over the past two weeks, said WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The WHO chief said at a press conference on Wednesday March 11: “we are deeply concerned about the levels of spread and severity” and the “alarming levels of inaction.”
A pandemic is the classification of a disease that is spreading in multiple countries at the same time. There are currently 118,000 cases in 114 countries and 4,291 people have lost their lives.
Despite the labelling of the virus a pandemic Dr Tedros explained that this did not mean that WHO is changing its advice about what procedures countries should follow.
He also pointed out that 90% of the cases are concentrated in four countries: China, Italy, Iran and South Korea. In China and South Korea a reduction in the daily rate of the disease is already being seen. As for Spain, it is the fifth most contagious country in the world, with 2,174 confirmed cases at the time of writing.
WHO has addressed all countries, asking for their collaboration "to detect, test, treat, isolate, track and raise awareness in society to take the necessary preventive measures” in order to protect their citizens.
Dr Tedros called on governments to change the course of the outbreak by taking "urgent and aggressive action".
"Several countries have demonstrated that this virus can be suppressed and controlled," he said.
The WHO chief called for governments to "strike a fine balance between protecting health, minimising disruption and respecting human rights".
"We're in this together to do the right things with calm and protect the citizens of the world. It's doable," concluded Dr Tedros.
The declaration of a pandemic by WHO does not mean it cannot be controlled. Countries are being told to continue to do what they have been advised to do. This does mean that some countries may have to step up their response.
The use of the word “pandemic" highlights the importance of countries around the world taking urgent and effective action to respond to their own outbreaks - because now it's everyone's responsibility to curtail the spread of this virus.