Coronavirus Outbreak Declared a Pandemic by WHO – the Designation Poses Grave Political and Financial Ramifications
The World Health Organization (WHO) has now declared the ongoing coronavirus outbreak – officially known as the COVID-19 – a global pandemic, underscoring the severity of the disease that has infected upwards of 120,000 people throughout the world.
WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters during a conference call:
“In the past two weeks the number of cases outside China has increased thirteenfold and the number of affected countries has tripled. In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths and the number of affected countries to climb even higher.”
Although Tedros conceded that a number of countries and their leaders have demonstrated the resilience to curb the spread of the coronavirus, he nonetheless took a dim of view of many other world leaders who failed to act effectively in order to curb the spread of the virus.
Just prior to declaring the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic, Tedros said:
“We’re deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.”
According to health experts, the designation of a pandemic carries with it grave political and economic ramifications. It can create panic and societal destabilization. Also, the stock markets around the world are bound to be rattled by this development.
WHO officials had been facing criticism for the past few days over their reluctance to declare the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. Tedros had previously justified the organization’s dithering in this matter because most cases of the coronavirus infection could be traced to known cases and infection clusters, noting that there wasn’t any “evidence as yet that the virus is spreading freely in communities.”
Just last week, Tedros asked reporters:
“Unless we’re convinced it’s uncontrollable, why ... call it a pandemic?”
However, it appears that WHO’s pandemic threshold has now been breached, prompting the global health watchdog to raise the associated threat level.
Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program, had said during a press briefing on the 28th of February:
“This is a reality check for every government on the planet: Wake up. Get ready. This virus may be on its way and you need to be ready. You have a duty to your citizens, you have a duty to the world to be ready.”
Bear in mind that although the spread of the coronavirus is slowing down in China, it is unfortunately accelerating elsewhere. According to the data available from the John Hopkins University (JHU), Italy has the most cases outside of China with around 10,149 infections, followed closely by Iran with 9,000 infections and South Korea with 7,775. In the United States, 1,050 cases have emerged so far across 36 states, as per JHU data.
We have been covering the unfortunate human and financial toll exacted by the coronavirus outbreak for a while now. According to CNBC, at least 150 publicly-traded companies have alerted investors so far to a financial hit from the pandemic, with many warning that they will miss previously issued guidance as a result. For an exhaustive list of the affected companies, head over to this link.