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Coronavirus has 'pandemic potential' - but what is a pandemic?


  • The World Health Organisation says coronavirus has "pandemic potential" but is not a pandemic yet.

  • But some experts disagree and some say a pandemic may already be underway.

  • Coronavirus is not a pandemic, at least not yet. That was the message from the World Health Organization's Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a briefing Wednesday.

“We should not be too eager to declare a pandemic without a careful and clear-minded analysis of the facts," he said, noting appeals for a declaration from some politicians and journalists.

His remarks beg one key question: What does it take for experts to label a disease a pandemic?

A pandemic is a new disease that has spread globally, according to the WHO. As most people are not immune to this new disease, it can spread beyond expectation.

Pandemics, as some experts have explained, don't speak to the severity of such disease, only their geographic reach.

Transition from local epidemics to a global pandemic, according to the WHO, “may occur quickly or gradually as indicated by the global risk assessment, principally based on virological, epidemiological and clinical data."

As of Wednesday, however, WHO said the coronavirus had not caused a "sustained and intensive community transmission" or large-scale casualties.

China has fewer than 80,000 cases in a population of 1.4 billion people, explained WHO. In the rest of the world, there are 2,790 cases in a population of 6.3 billion.

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