WHO declares pandemic status for Covid-19

WHO declares pandemic status for Covid-19

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has made the decision to characterise coronavirus Covid-19 as a pandemic.

Speaking at a Covid-19 media briefing overnight, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus escalated the seriousness of the new categorisation of the coronavirus.

"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," says Adhanom.

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

Click here for live updates on the situation.

According to the WHO, a disease or virus being classified as a pandemic does not necessarily refer to the severity of the illness, but rather whether it has spread worldwide.

"Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. 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," says Adhanom.

"Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO's assessment of the threat posed by this virus. It doesn't change what WHO is doing, and it doesn't change what countries should do."

According to the WHO, Covid-19 is the first ever coronavirus to reach pandemic status.

"We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus," says Adhanom.

"And we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled, at the same time."


The world takes measures as virus spreads exponentially

Since Covid-19 was first detected in Wuhan, China, the coronavirus has spread exponentially around the globe.

According to the latest situation numbers from the WHO there are 118,326 confirmed cases of Covid-19 globally and 4,292 deaths.

That number is rising fast in countries like Italy, South Korea and Iran, which have so far been the worst hit by the virus outside of China.

In Italy, the country's death toll from the coronavirus outbreak rose by 31 per cent in the last 24 hours to a total of 827 deaths.

The country has since ordered all shops, bars and restaurants to close to help stem the outbreak, bar those selling basic necessities like pharmacies and supermarkets.

In South Korea there are 7,755 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 60 deaths since the outbreak began.

Iran is experiencing a similar situation, reporting 8,042 confirmed cases and 291 deaths from Covid-19.

Back home Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a $22 billion coronavirus stimulus package to be spent over the next two years.

The package includes a $750 payment to those receiving currently government benefits, with the biggest beneficiaries to be pensioners and those on Newstart.

However, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg insists the government is focused on supporting Australian businesses.

"Importantly, $3 out of every $4 spent will go to backing business and keeping Australians in a job," said Treasurer Frydenberg at this morning's press conference.

Frydenberg also announced a coronavirus fund will be established to target industries worst hit by Covid-19 like tourism and trade.

"A coronavirus fund is being established designed to target those areas and provide assistance that are most heavily by the spread of the virus. It initially will be a $1 billion fund," says Frydenberg.

"This will include the waiver of certain fees and charges for tourism businesses operating in Commonwealth National Parks, and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, increasing domestic tourism promotion, and additional assistance through Austrade to address supply chain breakdowns."

In the United States President Donald Trump has suspended all travel from Europe into the country for the next 30 days starting this Friday. The restrictions will not apply to Britain.

Covid-19 has had a particular impact on events and mass gatherings worldwide, with music festivals like Tasmania's Dark Mofo being scrapped for 2020 and California's Coachella being postponed until October this year.

Even the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) has cancelled its annual gathering due to the uncertain availability of international speakers and delegates.

The impact on businesses has been immense, particularly coordinating whether or not employees should be coming into work.

For instance, Spotify, the music streaming giant based in Sweden, has asked all of its employees to work from home for a fortnight due to the heightened risk of Covid-19.

"We all have an obligation to delay the spread of the virus and thus the expected pressure on our healthcare system," says Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek.

"I hope other businesses in Sweden will follow suit."

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