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
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