By Erin B. Logan
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON - The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a "pandemic."
"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," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The WHO has not declared an international pandemic since 2009 after the outbreak of then-novel H1N1 virus.
Health experts and officials are still trying to grapple with this new coronavirus, which originated at a wildlife market in China's Hubei province. It has rattled industries and stock markets worldwide and infected more than 121,000 and killed at least 4,373, largely the elderly with underlying health conditions.
The United Nations agency in late February increased the risk assessment from "high" to "very high."
Since then, the number of cases outside China has soared. In Italy, more than 10,000 cases have surfaced and 600 have died. The European nation remains on lockdown and expects to see more confirmed cases. Wednesday morning, Chancellor Angela Merkel said as much as 70% of the German population was likely to become infected. She recommended cancellation of large events. In the United States, more than 1,000 cases have been confirmed, with Washington state, New York and California seeing the largest clusters.
As testing expands, the number of cases is likely to grow. Experts surmise that, as of March 1, about 1,000 to 10,000 people nationwide were already unknowingly infected.