World Health Organization officials are “deeply concerned” about the “rapid escalation and global spread” of the coronavirus outbreak, saying global infections will eclipse 1 million with 50,000 deaths in a few days.
“Over the past five weeks, we have witnessed a near exponential growth in the number of new cases, reaching almost every country, territory and area,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news briefing at the organization’s Geneva headquarters Wednesday.
The world knew almost nothing about the virus three months ago, when reports of a novel coronavirus first started surfacing in Wuhan, China. Tedros emphasized how much scientists still don’t know about the virus, saying this is the world’s first pandemic caused by a coronavirus “and whose behavior is not really known.” Scientists have traced the coronavirus back to bat DNA, saying it likely jumped from there to a pangolin before jumping to humans.
The last time WHO declared a pandemic was during the 2009 H1N1 swine flu outbreak. The 2002-2003 outbreak of SARS, which is also a coronavirus, was contained enough to avoid that classification.