Currently 45 countries outside China have been affected by the virus, with Italy and Iran emerging as other epicenters of the disease.
These recent outbreaks have raised questions about whether the virus should be considered a pandemic.
The organization defines a pandemic as “an outbreak of a new pathogen that spreads easily from person to person worldwide.”
However, WHO has been very resistant to labeling the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic, although it has warned that there is a possibility of its occurrence.
WHY WHO HAS NOT DECLARED A PANDEMY
Concerns are growing about the possibility of the coronavirus reaching the pandemic level, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison implementing an emergency response plan in preparation.
Mr. Morrison told reporters this afternoon that there are “all indications that the world will soon enter the pandemic phase of the virus.”
He said the government had advanced to WHO and was now operating effectively on the basis that a pandemic had been declared.
However, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the outbreak has not yet reached the pandemic level.
Speaking yesterday in a weekly briefing about the virus, Dr. Tedros said using the word “pandemic” could have a number of negative impacts.
“The increase in cases outside China has led some media and politicians to press for a pandemic to be declared. We should not be too anxious to declare a pandemic without careful and clear analysis of the facts, ”he said.
“The careless use of the word pandemic has no tangible benefit, but it does have a significant risk in terms of amplifying unnecessary and unjustified fear and stigma, and paralyzing systems.
“It can also indicate that we can no longer contain the virus, which is not true. We are in a fight that can be won if we do the right thing. ”
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However, Dr. Tedros said that WHO “would not hesitate” to call it a pandemic if it were a “precise description of the situation.”
He stated that at this time the coronavirus was not causing serious illness or death on a large scale nor had it reached the level of sustained and intensive community transmission.
“Do not confuse me: I am not minimizing the seriousness of the situation or the potential for this to become a pandemic, because it has that potential,” he said.
“Each stage is still on the table.
“On the contrary, we are saying that this virus has pandemic potential and that WHO is providing the tools for each country to prepare accordingly.”
While it is not yet a pandemic, Dr. Tedros said that all countries should be prepared for the scenario in which a pandemic is declared.
Another reason why WHO can resist calling the outbreak a pandemic is because of the reaction they received the last time they did.
In 2009, WHO declared a pandemic for H1N1 flu, more commonly known as swine flu.
This decision was widely criticized by several countries, and many claimed that it caused unnecessary panic and that its severity had been overestimated.
The pandemic declaration also resulted in many countries stocking the swine flu vaccine, leading to millions of unused doses.
Since then, WHO has completely eliminated the pandemic classification, which means that the organization no longer has a formal way of declaring a pandemic.
“WHO does not use the old six-phase system, which ranged from phase one (without reports of animal influenza that causes human infections) to phase six (a pandemic), that some people may be familiar with H1N1 flu in 2009 “said the WHO spokesman said The Telegraph.
“We use pandemic terms for all kinds of purposes and we could qualify a situation as a pandemic, but there would not be an official announcement.”
But the organization warned that even the simple use of the word pandemic can have negative consequences and, as such, should be used with caution.
WHAT HAPPENS IF A PANDEMY IS DECLARED
While WHO is reluctant to declare a pandemic, if cases of coronavirus continue to spread in countries other than China, a decision is likely to be made.
If this is the case, then the approach will probably move from containment to mitigation.
This means that governments will focus their attention on slowing down the spread of the population by taking measures such as canceling important events in which people can become infected with each other or prevent them from going to school or work.
Associate Professor Ian Mackay of the University of Queensland said in his opinion that a pandemic was inevitable and that it was only a matter of time before the coronavirus crossed Australia.
He told 3AW Neil Mitchell that efforts to mitigate the impact of the virus will likely have an impact on the supply chain of goods.
Professor Mackay said that while it is not necessary to panic to buy food and other items, buying some “extra things” was a good idea.
“Think about your pets, think about your parents and grandparents (and) how they are going. Do they need medication? Should I talk to their doctor about getting some additional prescriptions in the closet just in case? He said.
“It’s more or less what happens if your schools close and you get stuck at home with your children for a while or if people say you can’t go to work, we need to keep people at home a little slower because of the spread of the virus
“Are you prepared at home to have some things for a couple of weeks to keep going, to have things to eat (like) canned food, dry food? Do you have (activities at home) to do? Do you have batteries?
The medical director of Australia, Brendan Murphy, said that if a world pandemic was declared, then the country “will be prepared.”
“Every part of the health system is now working on its plan so that we are ready if things develop further in the future,” he said at a recent press conference.
Dr. Murphy said the decision to call it a pandemic will probably depend on whether the cases of the virus continue to grow in Europe and the Middle East.
“If it stays in those countries, as it has been in China, I suspect that WHO would make such a call,” he said.
“But for now, they are not making that call, because those countries are trying to contain.”