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Taiwan public health expert urges WHO to declare coronavirus ‘pandemic’

WHO’s reluctance to label outbreak as pandemic baffles medical experts around world

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A firefighter disinfects a traditional shopping center to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in Iran.

A firefighter disinfects a traditional shopping center to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in Iran. (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Taiwanese public health expert called on the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare the coronavirus outbreak a “pandemic,” as the disease has infected nearly 110,000 people in many countries as of Monday (March 9).

At a press conference on the COVID-19, Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權), dean of the National Taiwan University’s College of Public Health (CPH), questioned the rationale behind the WHO’s decision not to label the epidemic as a pandemic.

From the perspective of potential fatalities, Chan likened the health crisis to the 1918 Spanish flu, which infected one-third of the world’s population, about 500 million people, with an estimated 2 to 3 percent fatality rate. The mortality rate of the coronavirus stands at 3.4 percent, according to the WHO.

To date, over 100 countries have reported infections, and the number could be growing. He believes the criteria of a pandemic have been met and calls on the UN health agency to act accordingly by making the declaration this week, wrote CNA.

The WHO has resisted labeling COVID-19 as a pandemic to avoid jolting the world further. “Unless we’re convinced it’s uncontrollable, why (would) we call it a pandemic?” Time quoted WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as saying.

The UN health agency has said a pandemic occurs when a virus has led to sustained community outbreaks in at least two regions. The threshold is believed to have been met, as all continents except Antarctic have been visited by the coronavirus, and it appears to be taking hold in many countries.