The World Health Organisation defines a pandemic as “the worldwide spread of a new disease”.
Now that coronavirus has officially been declared a pandemic, with more than 4,000 deaths worldwide, how will that impact your everyday life?
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the WHO announcement changed little from the perspective of the Government, which is implementing a $17.6 billion stimulus package to help keep the economy afloat.
“We called this [a pandemic] two weeks ago, and they have called it today,” Mr Morrison told the Nine Network.
“We welcome that, but we have been planning on that basis for the last two weeks.”
@WHO: “We have therefore made the assessment that #COVID19 can be characterized as a pandemic”- @DrTedros #coronavirus
Roland Rajah, Director of the International Economy Program at the Lowy Institute, told the ABC the pandemic announcement was not necessarily momentous, but added a “sense of urgency” to the situation.
“I don’t think it’s hugely consequential. It’s mostly a matter of symbolism,” he said.
“Most countries would treat that [declaring a pandemic] as simply confirming what they already know, for starters.
“But it might add to the general sense of urgency at the margins.”
For German Chancellor Angela Merkel, it is now “about winning time” in slowing the spread of the virus.
Overnight she warned that up to 70 per cent of the country’s population — 58 million people — could contract COVID-19, which has no known cure.
According to the WHO, the declaration of a pandemic is linked to concerns about COVID-19’s spread around the world, rather than changes in the characteristics of the disease.
When announcing that coronavirus had been officially declared a pandemic, WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said cases outside China had increased 13-fold in the past two weeks.
But he stressed that “all countries can change the course of this pandemic” with swift and effective action.
“Ready your hospitals, protect and train your health workers, and let’s all look out for each other, because we need each other,” Dr Tedros said.
The WHO is urging countries to “detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilise their people”.
For Australia, measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 could see more schools shut, employees working remotely, and a limit on public gatherings like sporting events to impose “social-distancing measures”.
“Containment means basically identifying cases and tracking their contacts and that sort of thing,” Mr Rajah said.
“Mitigation [means] shifting towards things like shut-downs.
“So, you know, closing schools and businesses, [implementing] extreme quarantine events, imposing so-called social-distancing measures.”
Overseas travel is becoming more difficult, with flights cancelled, borders closed, and non-essential trips not recommended, given that COVID-19 is now in at least 114 countries.
‘Reconsider need to travel to Italy’
Coronavirus has seen DFAT’s Smart Traveller website raise its advice level for six countries.
China and Iran are listed as “do not travel” nations.
For South Korea and Italy, Australians should “reconsider your need to travel”, while in Japan and Mongolia, travellers are advised to “exercise a high degree of caution”.
Smart Traveller strongly recommends that those on business trips check for last-minute changes at all points of disembarkation, even for cities where they are only changing planes.
“Many [countries] are introducing new entry restrictions. These are changing often and quickly,” Smart Traveller said.
Despite Mr Morrison’s reassurances that the Government’s stimulus package will help Australia “bounce back” from COVID-19, Mr Rajah warned the economic impact could affect millions of Australian families and cause more inconveniences to everyday life.
“When you go from containment to mitigation, you basically go to much more economic disruption,” Mr Rajah said.