By Isabel Saco
Geneva, Mar 11 (efe-epa).- It is a year since the World Health Organization first formally described the Covid-19 health emergency as a pandemic, but it had already sounded the highest level of alarm weeks earlier, on 30 January.
The WHO’s early warnings often went ignored, a factor that allowed the new coronavirus to spread rapidly around the globe. In just over a year, it has claimed 2.6 million lives and infected at least 117 million people, although many millions more will have gone undetected.
Detractors of the WHO’s handling of the Covid-19 emergency will often point to 11 March to highlight how the organization was late to declare a pandemic.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commented on the issue this week.
“On the 30th of January last year, I declared a global health emergency over the spread of the novel coronavirus. At the time, outside China there were less than 100 cases of Covid-19, and no deaths,” he said.
“I wish to be very clear: a public health emergency of international concern is the highest level of alarm under international law.”
He added: “In the following weeks, the number of affected countries and the number of cases globally grew rapidly, which led us to describe Covid-19 as a pandemic on the 11th of March last year. But we must be clear that that was not the moment at which we sounded the highest level of alarm. That moment was on the 30th of January.”
“One of the things we still need to understand is why some countries acted on those warnings, while others were slower to react,” he added.
In the early days of the outbreak, few governments could envision how critical the situation would become.