Topline: The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared Covid-19 a global pandemic, sending a message to world leaders that the coronavirus is a fast-moving crisis that needs to be taken seriously.

  • The WHO had been reluctant to label the coronavirus a global pandemic until now, saying that categorizing the disease too early might create unfounded panic.
  • There is no fixed criteria for declaring a pandemic, but Tedros Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, cited the disease’s quick spread outside of China as a reason for the declaration.
  • The last time the WHO declared a pandemic was during the H1N1 crisis in 2009, which saw nearly a quarter of the world’s population infected.
  • The Dow dropped more than 1,100 points after the pandemic declaration.

Crucial quote: “We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction,” Ghebreyesus said.

Big numbers: Ghebreyesus pointed to the fact that the number of cases outside of China has increased 13-fold over the last two weeks and the number of countries infected has tripled.

News peg: Over the last few months, Covid-19 has spread quickly from Wuhan, China to the rest of the world, with Italy, Iran and South Korea dealing with the most severe outbreaks outside of China. According to Johns Hopkins, more than 121,000 cases have been confirmed worldwide and 4,373 have died as of Wednesday.

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