The World Health Organisation (WHO) has officially declared COVID-19 (coronavirus) as a pandemic, as the US bans all travel from Europe.
WHO released a statement confirming COVID-19 can now be characterised as a pandemic.
“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly,” said WHO director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.
“We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus…And we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled, at the same time.”
The Australian government enacted its pandemic response plan two weeks ago, with the deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly remarking he was surprised WHO had not already done so.
There are now more than 118,000 cases spread across 114 countries resulting in 4,291, placing the death rate for the disease at more than 6 per cent.
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— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) March 11, 2020
Tedros said in the past two weeks the number of cases in China has risen 13-fold and the number of countries affected has tripled.
“We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic,” he said.
“Ready your hospitals, protect and train your health workers, and let’s all look out for each other because we need each other.”
This comes as US President Donald Trump has announced all travel from Europe would be suspended for 30 days, excluding the UK, beginning Friday at midnight local time.
According to the BBC, the US has 1,135 confirmed cases of the virus with 38 deaths.
Trump also announced plans to pump billions of dollars in loans to small businesses to stem the effect of the outbreak on the US economy.
Meanwhile, the Indian government has suspended all tourist visas for entry from 13 March to 15 April. Wendy Wu Tours, which has several groups travelling to India during this time, said it is working closely with airline partners and ground operators regarding customers impacted by this latest development.
“As always, our main priority is to ensure the health and wellbeing of our customers,” Andrew Mulholland, Wendy Wu managing director said.
“Wendy Wu Tours acknowledges it is an extremely difficult time for agents and the industry. Please rest assured we are urgently working through all bookings and our team will be in touch with agents as soon as possible.”
Locally, Hollywood actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson have been diagnosed with COVID-19 at a Gold Coast hospital.
View this post on Instagram
Hello, folks. Rita and I are down here in Australia. We felt a bit tired, like we had colds, and some body aches. Rita had some chills that came and went. Slight fevers too. To play things right, as is needed in the world right now, we were tested for the Coronavirus, and were found to be positive. Well, now. What to do next? The Medical Officials have protocols that must be followed. We Hanks’ will be tested, observed, and isolated for as long as public health and safety requires. Not much more to it than a one-day-at-a-time approach, no? We’ll keep the world posted and updated. Take care of yourselves! Hanx!
The couple is in Australia for the filming of Baz Luhrmann’s new film about Elvis Presley, where Hanks plays Presley’s iconic manager Colonel Tom Parker.
“We felt a bit tired, like we had colds, and some body aches. Rita had some chills that came and went. Slight fevers too,” Hanks wrote in an Instagram post.
“To play things right, as is needed in the world right now, we were tested for the Coronavirus, and were found to be positive.”