In a major development, the World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a pandemic, saying it is not a word to use lightly or carelessly.
Speaking at a press conference, Tedros Adhanom said that WHO was ‘deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and the alarming levels of inaction’.
“In the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has tripled,” he added. So far, there are 118,000 cases reported in 114 countries while 4,291 people have lost their lives. Thousands more are fighting for their lives in hospitals, Tedros informed.
The WHO chief warned that in the days and weeks ahead, the number of cases, deaths, and affected countries were expected to climb even higher.
Pandemic ‘Not a Word to Use Lightly’
Tedros stressed that Pandemic was not a word to use lightly or carelessly. “It’s a word that if misused can cause unreasonable fear or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over leading to unnecessary suffering and death.”
Last week, Tedros had warned that countries were not taking the coronavirus crisis seriously enough as outbreaks surged across Europe and in the United States.
‘We Will Continue to Keep Pakistanis Safe’
Dr. Zafar Mirza, in response to the WHO announcement, has said that the federal and provincial governments have been working in sync for the past seven weeks to implement the broad cardinals of preparedness and response as the WHO chief has highlighted.
‘We will InshaAllah continue to work to keep Pakistanis safe from coronavirus’, he said.
In another tweet, he hoped that the world could still change the course of the pandemic by ‘detecting, testing, treating, isolating, tracing, and mobilizing their people in the response.’
Dr. Zafar added that countries needed to scale up the emergency response by communicating with the people the potential risks and protection measures work.
‘Up to 70% of Germany Could Become Infected’
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned yesterday that the virus could affect up to 70% of the country’s population.
“Since there was no known cure, the focus would fall on slowing the spread of the virus,’ she said.
Her remark followed Italy’s second day of national lockdown.
Kuwait Halts all Commercial Passenger Flights, Declares Public Holiday
In a bid to forestall the spread of coronavirus, Kuwait has announced that it will suspend all commercial flights leaving and arriving in Kuwait City International Airport starting Friday ‘until further notice’.
It is also learned that the country will ‘forbid’ public gatherings including the residents meeting in ‘restaurants, cafes, and commercial centers’.
238 of Qatar’s Quarantined People Get the Virus
Qatar revealed that 238 new COVID-19 cases were recorded among quarantined individuals.
All individuals are expatriates and reside in the same compound as the three who were diagnosed with the virus on Sunday.
In Pakistan, Schools to Reopen as Serious Inaction Continues
Saeed Ghani, Sindh Education Minister, announced yesterday that no further extension to school closures was in sight and the schools in the province will reopen from March 16.
While other countries begin lockdowns and severe bans on large public gatherings, Pakistan is only taking half-hearted, cosmetic measures.
Yesterday, the PCB announced that PSL matches scheduled in Karachi will be staged as planned despite threats of a mass-spread. 16 of the 20 confirmed COVID-19 cases have been reported in Karachi.
However, to make the matches ‘safe’ for live spectators, the Sindh government issued an advisory that doesn’t say more than basic prevention methods like handwashing, sneezing or coughing into a tissue, avoiding handshakes, and not spitting.
Meanwhile, the annual Tableeghi Ijtema of Raiwind continues in full swing in spite of the coronavirus crisis. Commissioner Lahore Saif Anjum said that the district administration had requested the organizers of the Ijtema to postpone the gathering but to no avail.
SECP Issues Advisory to Companies on Annual General Meetings
The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) has issued an advisory to all companies asking them to modify plans for their annual general meetings in view of the coronavirus threat.
In case the gatherings are unavoidable, proper care must be ensured e.g. presence of hand sanitizers and safe distance between seats.
9.30 am Saudi Arabia suspends travel, flights to Pakistan
To forestall the spread of coronavirus, the kingdom has temporarily suspended flights from Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Sudan, European Union countries, Swiss Confederation, and other countries.
An official statement from the KSA Ministry of Interior read,
In accordance with the preventive and precautionary measures recommended by the competent health authorities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as part of its determined efforts to control the virus, prevent its entry and spread, and based on the concern to protect the health of citizens and expatriates and ensure their safety, the kingdom’s government decided to temporarily suspend the travel of citizens and expatriates and suspend flights to the European Union countries, Swiss Confederation, the Republic of India, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Social Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka, the Republic of the Philippines, the Republic of Sudan, and The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, the Republic of South Sudan, the State of Eritrea, the Republic of Kenya, the Republic of Djibouti, and the Federal Republic of Somalia, as well as suspend the entry of those coming from those countries, and the entry of those who were there during the 14 days prior to their arrival.
For our coronavirus coverage from March 11, click here.