WHO Declares Coronavirus a Pandemic; Europe New Epicenter

A man and a girl in Lombardy in front of an advertisement reading in Italian "Coronavirus let's stop it together" // Photo by AP Photo/Luca Bruno via Newscred

The World Health Organization on Wednesday officially declared COVID-19 (coronavirus) a pandemic, which is a more severe rating that an outbreak or epidemic. Earlier this week, the total number of reported cases (including those who have recovered) surpassed 100,000 and deaths topped 4,200. Eight countries are reporting over 1,000 cases of coronavirus.

On Tuesday, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Robert Redfield called Europe the new epicenter of the disease, according to Yahoo News. “The new China is Europe,” he said. Western Europe, in particular, due to its dense populations and open, easily traveled borders are making it difficult to slow the containment of coronavirus.

Italy has long been the worst-hit country in Europe, most recently restricting public movement nationwide due to the coronavirus. Travel is only allowed for urgent situations, public civil and religious ceremonies have been suspended, and restaurant and bar activities are only allowed from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Al Jazeera adds that Italy is considering imposing even tighter restrictions on daily life, while announcing billions in financial relief on Wednesday to cushion economic shocks from the coronavirus. Italy has topped 10,000 cases (second only to China) and 630 deaths, according to NPR.

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Spain, France and Germany are other countries that are seeing total number of cases increasing. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, citing health experts, estimated that up to 70 percent of the population could be infected by the disease. Events with more than 1,000 people are recommended to be cancelled; this already includes IMEX Frankfurt, ITB Berlin and the International Hospitality Investment Forum, an event operated by Travel Agent parent company Questex. In Ireland, according to the BBC, all St. Patrick’s Day parades and festivals have been cancelled. Events in Belfast, Northern Ireland have also been called off—although parades in other cities are still scheduled.

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