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WHO declares coronavirus a pandemic

Topics Covered: Issues related to health.

WHO declares coronavirus a pandemic

What to study?

For Prelims: What is Pandemic? About COVID 19.

For Mains: Implications of this declaration, significance and the way ahead.

Context: As fresh coronavirus cases continue to be reported from different countries, the World Health Organization has finally declared the novel coronavirus a ‘pandemic‘.

WHO said it was deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction.

Earlier, on January 30 the WHO declared it was a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern”.

What is an outbreak, epidemic and pandemic?

  1. An outbreak is understood to be a sudden rise in the cases of a disease in a particular place.
  2. An epidemic is a large outbreak among a particular population or region (such as the current situation in China).
  3. A pandemic is “the worldwide spread of a new disease”. There is no specific number of countries that a disease must touch for WHO to classify it as a pandemic.

The spread of COVID 19:

The novel coronavirus disease that emerged in Wuhan, China, in the final days of last year, is now in at least 47 countries around the world, spanning every continent except Antarctica. More than 82,000 people have been infected, and over 2,800 are dead.

Affected countries include Japan, Brazil, Sweden, Canada, Australia, Iran among others.

Previous Pandemics:

In June 2009, the WHO declared a global pandemic of novel influenza A (H1N1), commonly known as swine flu.

The WHO has abandoned that system of classification now, even though the term pandemic can still be used “colloquially”.


The WHO continues to advise countries “to enact plans based on national risk assessments of local circumstances, taking into consideration the information provided by WHO’s global assessments”.

About Novel Coronavirus disease:

COVID-19 is a respiratory infection. There are many types of coronavirus, some linked to the common cold, but this one is new and was detected toward the end of 2019.

COVID-19 is the official name given to the virus by the World Health Organization. Before WHO officially named the virus, it was also referred to as coronavirus, the novel coronavirus and 2019-nCOV (to indicate the year when the virus was first detected).

Why it is named so?

The coronavirus gets its name from the way it looks: It has a core of genetic material covered by an envelope with protein spikes that resemble a crown. In Latin, a crown is a corona. It’s called a novel coronavirus because it’s new and hasn’t been detected in people before.

What are the symptoms? 

  • COVID-19 is similar to other respiratory illnesses and symptoms include a fever, dry cough, sore throat and headache. There may also be aches and pains, fatigue and, in some cases, vomiting and diarrhea.
  • While most cases are mild, some individuals may experience more severe symptoms such as shortness of breath and difficulty breathing, and may experience pneumonia in both lungs. Those with health issues or underlying conditions may also have a harder time recovering.
  • It may take up to 14 days after exposure for symptoms to appear.

How is COVID-19 spread? 

  • COVID-19 is transmitted through liquid droplets or particles when a person coughs or sneezes. These droplets, if containing the virus, can infect a person by entering through the eyes, nose or throat. It’s not believed to be airborne and it’s not known to infect via the skin.
  • However, the virus can survive on some surfaces so if a person sneezes into their hand, shakes your hand and your then rub your eye with your hand, transmission is possible through self-inoculation.


What’s the difference between a cold, a flu and COVID- 19?

All three are respiratory illnesses but each is caused by a different virus.

The cold is caused by the rhinovirus, the flu is caused by the influenza virus, and COVID-19 is caused by the novel 2019 coronavirus.

All three can lead to pneumonia if complicated by other health issues or underlying conditions.

Insta Link:

Prelims Link:

  1. SARS vs MERS vs Common cold vs COVID 19- similarities, spread and differences.
  2. Epidemic vs Pandemic vs Endemic, who declares it?
  3. Previous pandemics and epidemics.

Mains Link:

Why COVID 19 was declared Pandemic by WHO? What are its implications? Discuss.

Sources: the Hindu.