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People's Daily Online

COVID-19 has pandemic potential, but "not yet" there: WHO chief

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 10:49, February 25, 2020

GENEVA, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- The chief of the World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday that although COVID-19 has the potential to become a global pandemic, it has yet to be there based upon WHO assessment.

"Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely, it has. Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a daily briefing.

Outside China, there are now 2,074 cases of COVID-19 in 28 countries and 23 deaths, as Italy, Iran and South Korea witnessed sudden increases of cases, prompting speculation about whether these increases mean that this epidemic has now become a pandemic.

"Our decision about whether to use the word 'pandemic' to describe an epidemic is based on an ongoing assessment of the geographical spread of the virus, the severity of disease it causes and the impact it has on the whole of society," the WHO chief said.

"For the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus, and we are not witnessing large-scale severe disease or death," he continued. "Using the word pandemic now does not fit the facts, but it may certainly cause fear."

The WHO chief urged again that it's "not the time to focus on what word we use," but "a time for all countries, communities, families and individuals to focus on preparing."

At the daily briefing, the WHO chief also pointed out that COVID can be contained based upon the findings of a WHO-China team which had just concluded its mission in China.

"The key message that should give all countries hope, courage and confidence is that this virus can be contained," he said.

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