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World Health Organization declares coronavirus outbreak a 'pandemic'


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The World Health Organization has officially declared the worldwide coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.


The announcement was made this morning by the Director-General of Health, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.


"WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction," he said in a media briefing.


"We have therefore made the assessment that Covid-19 can be characterised as a pandemic."


More than 118,000 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 worldwide since the outbreak began late last year, including five people in New Zealand.


In today's statement, Dr Tedros said countries can still "turn the tide" on the spread.


"Several countries have demonstrated that this virus can be suppressed and controlled," he says.


"If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace, and mobilise their people in the response, those with a handful of Covid-19 cases can prevent those cases becoming clusters, and those clusters becoming community transmission."


After originating in Wuhan, China, late last year, the virus has spread around the world, with cases in 114 countries.


However Dr Tedros says more than 90 per cent of cases are in just four countries.


"And two of those – China and South Korea - have significantly declining epidemics."


The majority of cases outside of China are in Italy, which has gone into lockdown with more than 10,000 people infected.

More than 4000 people have died worldwide.



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