Is the coronavirus a pandemic? 'Not yet,' says WHO

Recent spikes in COVID-19 cases have been reported in Italy, Iran and South Korea.

Carrie Mihalcik Former Managing Editor / News
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People are seen wearing masks as they cross a road in Mong Kok District on Jan. 24 in Hong Kong, China.

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The World Health Organization says it doesn't yet consider the deadly coronavirus outbreak to be a pandemic. While there have been more than 77,000 cases of COVID-19 (the official name of the illness) and more than 2,600 deaths, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday said we aren't yet "witnessing the uncontained global spread of this coronavirus." However, he added that the virus has pandemic potential.

"Using the word pandemic now does not fit the facts, but it may certainly cause fear," said Ghebreyesus. "We must focus on containment, while doing everything we can to prepare for a potential pandemic."

The novel coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, and cases have been confirmed in the US, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Australia. Over the weekend, worries increased about the global spread of the virus as South Korea's confirmed cases of COVID-19 spiked to over 600, and WHO reported 67 new cases in Italy.

The spread of the virus is also taking a toll on the global technology industry, with companies shuttering stores and offices, limiting travel and bracing for disruptions to supply chains. Coronavirus fears led Facebook to call off a March marketing summit in San Francisco that was expected to draw 4,000 people. In Barcelona, the Mobile World Conference scheduled for earlier in February was also canceled.

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