COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced yesterday (March 11).

“We expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher,” says WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

COVID-19 is the first pandemic caused by coronavirus. But what is a pandemic exactly and what does this mean for countries affected by the virus?

“Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO's assessment of the threat posed by this coronavirus. It doesn't change what WHO is doing, and it doesn't change what countries should do,” Dr Tedros added.

An endemic is when a disease is constantly observed in a single specific area. The disease becomes an epidemic when the number of cases increase suddenly and exceed what is considered usual for the population in that area. Finally, a pandemic is an epidemic that has affected a very large number of people across multiple countries.