WHO: COVID-19 Is Officially a Pandemic

A worker in Bratislava disinfects the interior of a public bus. Image: Vladimir Simicek/AFP via Getty Images
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A worker in Bratislava disinfects the interior of a public bus. Image: Vladimir Simicek/AFP via Getty Images

After resisting the "P-word" for weeks even as the novel coronavirus spread to dozens of countries, WHO has officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus argued that it means countries must double-down—not give up.

“The idea that countries should shift from containment to mitigation is wrong and dangerous,” he said­­ today.

He called it ­­a “controllable pandemic” and warned: “Countries that decide to give up on fundamental public health measures may end up with a larger problem, and a heavier burden on the health system that requires more severe measures to control.”

He set out 4 pillars for action:

  1. Prepare and be ready: There are still 77 countries and territories with no reported cases.
  2. Detect, prevent and treat: Robust surveillance to break transmission chains.
  3. Reduce and suppress: Finding and isolating as many cases as possible—that means testing all suspected cases.
  4. Innovate and improve: All countries have lessons to share.

Trump's Travel Ban

President Trump announced what amounts to a travel ban to Europe last night, Vox reports

The US will block people from coming to the US from Europe for 30 days beginning tomorrow, with the exception of the UK and Americans who have been screened. Trump said there will be exceptions, particularly “for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings.”

But Vox pointed out xenophobic threads in Trump’s speech—he emphasized that it is a “foreign virus,”—while medical experts say it ignores the work that really needs to be done, such as testing. Alexandra Phelan of Georgetown’s Center for Global Health Science tweeted that the ban is a distraction, as the “US has local transmission already,” and it “ignores vital mitigation steps we know we need to do now #COVID19.”

 

Germany's Truth Teller

Germans paid attention to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s comments that 2 in 3 in Germans may become infected, The New York Times reports—but she stressed solidarity and said the “main thing is to slow down the spread of the coronavirus to win time for people to develop immunity, and to prevent the health care system from becoming overwhelmed.”

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