An official of the World Health Organisation (WHO) reportedly said that the organisation no longer has a process for declaring any new viral outbreak a pandemic, but the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak remains an international emergency. Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesperson for WHO told the media that there was no official category for a pandemic. He said that WHO ceased to employ the old phasing system. A 'pandemic' was used to denote the outbreak of a newer pathogen that was transmitted human-to-human across the globe, he said.
According to reports, the Geneva-based agency had declared the H1N1 swine flu outbreak a pandemic in the year 2009. This led to several pharmaceutical companies scrambling to develop a vaccine, despite the outbreak turning out to be a mild one. It also earned the WHO criticism for the decision.
On the other hand, the WHO has declared the Wuhan virus that originated in Hubei province, China in December 2019 a public health emergency of international concern.
Tarik further elaborated that for the sake of clarification, WHO has discarded the use of the old system of 6 phases that some people may be familiar with after the H1N1 outbreak in 2009. Phase 1 that included no reports of animal influenza causing human infections, to phase 6 - a pandemic.
He further said that the terminologies aside, WHO still advises the world to put elaborate containment efforts to stop the global spread of the disease. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general said, "we are still in a phase where containment is possible. Our window of opportunity is narrowing."
He further issued a warning. "That's why we called on the international community to act quickly, including the financing," he said while speaking at the Geneva conference. He said that the outbreak could go in any direction. If nations did contain it well, they could avert any serious crisis, but if they squandered the opportunity, then countries would have a serious problem on their hands, he added.
(With Agency Inputs)