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WHO declares coronavirus outbreak a pandemic

2020-03-11 19:40

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has characterised the outbreak of the new coronavirus as a pandemic, director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday.

“We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction. We have therefore made the assessment that Covid-19 can be characterised as a pandemic,” he told a news conference.

The coronavirus, which emerged in China in December, has spread around the world, halting industry, bringing flights to a standstill, closing schools and forcing the postponement of sporting events and concerts.

As of Wednesday, South Africa had 13 confirmed cases of the virus.

Now there are more than 118 000 cases in 114 countries and 4 291 people have died.

One of the newly announced six cases is reported to be in a critical condition in a Gauteng hospital.

The Gauteng health department said the 57-year-old patient suffered from renal disease which the department was worried about, Health MEC Bandile Masuku said.

He added the man has comorbidity, meaning the presence of one or more conditions in addition to the primary condition.

The WHO declared a public health emergency of international concern, its “highest level of alarm”, on January 30 when there were fewer than 100 cases of Covid-19 outside China and eight cases of human-to-human transmission of the disease.

Now there are more than 118 000 cases in 114 countries and 4 291 people have died, Tedros said, with the numbers expected to climb.

The WHO no longer has a category for declaring a pandemic, except for influenza.

WHO officials have signalled for weeks that they may use the word “pandemic” as an descriptive term but stressed that it does not carry legal significance. The novel coronavirus is not the flu. 

Under its previous system, the Geneva-based agency declared the 2009 H1N1 swine flu outbreak a pandemic.

It turned out to be mild, leading to some criticism after pharmaceutical companies rushed development of vaccines and drugs.

- Additional reporting from News24

Communicable disease contacts

Eastern Cape: 

  • Thomas Dlamini - email: thomas.dlamini@echealth.gov.za - 083 378 0189 
  • Nosiphiwo Mgobo - email: Nosiphiwo.Mgobo@echealth.gov.za - 060 579 9027

Free State: 

  • Dikeledi Baleni - email: balenid@fshealth.gov.za - 083 757 8217 
  • Babsy Nyokong - email: nyokongb@fshealth.gov.za - 082 463 7499 


Gauteng: 

  • Chika Asomugha - email: Chika.Asomugha@gauteng.gov.za - 082 330 1490 
  • Caroline Kesebilwe - email: Caroline,Kesebilwe@gauteng.gov.za - 083 490 81 65 
    KwaZulu-Natal: 
  • Premi Govender - email: premi.govender@kznhealth.gov.za; - 071 609 2505 

Limpopo: 

  • Marlene Freda Ngobeni - email: Marlene.Ngobeni@dhsd.limpopo.gov.za - 079 491 1909 
  • Mashudu P. Mudau - email: Prudance.Mudau@dhsd.limpopo.gov.za - 071 678 3864 

Mpumalanga: 

  • Mandla Zwane - email: MandlaZ@mpuhealth.gov.za - 082 229 8893 
  • Hluphi Mpangane - email: hluphim@mpuhealth.gov.za - 076 522 8511/013 766 3411 

North West: 

  • Chriseldah Lebeko - email: clebeko@nwpg.gov.za - 082 421 7985 

Northern Cape: 

  • Gloria Hottie - email: hottieg@webmail.co.za - 072 3913345/053 830 0529 

Western Cape: 

  • Charlene Jacobs - email: Charlene.Jacobs@westerncape.gov.za - 072 356 5146/021 483 9964 

Contacts for Health and Environmental Health 

Central Region (Gauteng, Free State, Northern Cape): 

  • Funeka Bongweni - email: Funeka.Bongweni@health.gov.za - 060 993 0107/012 395 9728 

Northern Region (Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West): 

  • Ockert Jacobs - email: Ockert.Jacobs@health.gov.za - 082 372 0555/012 395 9417 

Coastal Region (KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape, Western Cape): 

  • Antoinette Hargreaves - email: Antoinette.Hargreaves@health.gov.za - 083 460 0935/031 301 0381

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May 31 2020