The World Health Organisation (WHO), on March 11, declared the coronavirus outbreak a ‘pandemic’, adding that it is not a term to be used ‘lightly or carelessly’.
A pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease, according to the WHO.
"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," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of WHO said in a media briefing.
The global death toll due to coronavirus is currently 4,292, with 118,326 confirmed cases, according to WHO's latest situation report.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Why has the WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic?
The WHO has taken stock of the number of cases across the world and assessed the rate at which cases of COVID-19 cases are spreading.
"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," the WHO Director-General said.
The WHO added that this is a pandemic that can be controlled and the first one caused by a coronavirus.
The organisation usually does not declare public health situations that do not involve flu as pandemics.
Does this change the WHO's response to the virus outbreak?
No, the WHO has stated that characterising the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic does not change their response, neither does it change what countries should do to contain the spread of the virus.
It emphasised that measures taken by countries "can still change the course of this pandemic".
When was the last time a pandemic was declared?
The last official pandemic was in 2009, caused by an outbreak of the H1NI virus, commonly called "swine flu". In recent history, HIV/AIDS Pandemic at its peak killed 36 million during 2005-2012. Flu Pandemic killed a million in 1968 and Asian Flu killed two million during 1956-1958."Pandemics can have unusual epidemiological patterns and large outbreaks can occur in the summer months," the WHO said in a statement issued in 2010.