Feb. 29, 2020

Instead of calling COVID-19 spread as pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has so far been referring only to a COVID-19 “outbreak”, which WHO on January 30 declared was a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern”.


  • Definitions: While an outbreak is understood to be a sudden rise in the cases of a disease in a particular place, and an epidemic as a large outbreak among a particular population or region, a pandemic, according to the WHO, is “the worldwide spread of a new disease”.

  • Criteria for Pandemic: While the WHO looks for sustained outbreaks causing a larger-than-expected number of cases on multiple continents, there is no specific number of countries that a disease must touch for WHO to classify it as a pandemic.

  • Spread: The novel coronavirus disease that emerged in Wuhan, China, in the final days of last year, is now in at least 47 countries around the world, spanning every continent except Antarctica. More than 82,000 people have been infected, and over 2,800 are dead.