World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a press conference following an emergency talks over the new SARS-like virus spreading in China and other nations in Geneva on January 22, 2020.
Pierre Albouy | AFP | Getty Images
The threat of a global pandemic is rising as the new coronavirus rapidly spreads across the world from Asia, to Europe, the Middle East and now parts of the United States, World Health Organization officials said Monday.
“Now that the virus has a foothold in so many countries, the threat of a pandemic has become very real,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on a conference call from the organization’s Geneva headquarters Monday.
While the virus is slowing in China where it originated in December, it’s picking up pace across other parts of the world and has spread to more than 100 countries. Korea has the most cases outside of China with roughly 7,500 infections, followed closely behind by Italy and Iran, which all had more than 7,000 COVID-19 cases as of Monday morning, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
In the U.S., cases erupted over the last week to more than 560 spread across at least 30 states, according to JHU.
WHO officials stopped just short of calling a global pandemic, indicating that they are getting closer to making the declaration — even as China and Singapore appear to have successfully contained the spread in their countries.
“When you reach 100 countries and when you reach 100,000 cases, it is time to step back and think, two weeks ago it was 30 countries,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, the executive director of the WHO’s emergencies program.
Tedros said only only a handful of countries “have signs of sustained community transmission,” adding that it’s still too early for world leaders to give up.
He said 70% of the more than 80,000 confirmed cases in China have recovered and been discharged from the hospital, saying the outbreak there may be ending.
“China is bringing its epidemic under control,” he said.
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