The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. However, the UN health agency says this will not change its response to the outbreak.

The term pandemic relates to a geographic spread and is used to describe a disease that affects a whole country or the entire world.

More than 121 500 people have been infected by the coronavirus across the world and 4 383 have died.

South Africa has 13 cases of the virus. WHO Director-General Doctor Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was speaking in Geneva, Switzerland.

“We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction. We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterised as a pandemic,” he told a news conference.

The WHO says describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by coronavirus.

“It does not change what WHO is doing and it doesn’t change what countries should do.” In the video below WHO says the countries need to remain prepared for possible cases: 

The organisation says it is concerned about the alarming levels of the spread of COVID-19.  In the past two weeks, the number of affected countries has tripled.

“There are now more than 118 000 cases in 114 countries and 4291 people have lost their lives,” says Ghebreyesus.  Countries have been urged to scale-up emergency response mechanisms.

Six new cases in South Africa

In South Africa, the Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize on Wednesday released a statement confirming that there are six new cases of coronavirus in the country, making the total number of positive patients in the country to 13.

Self-isolation and treatment 

The head of Infectious Diseases at Tygerberg Hospital and Stellenbosch University Professor Jantjie Taljaard says patients who are allowed to self-isolate at home after testing positive for the coronavirus, go through a rigorous process.

It has been revealed that the first confirmed coronavirus patient in Cape Town is self-quarantined at home.

Tygerberg hospital is one of the designated facilities for the isolation and treatment of COVID-19 patients in the Western Cape.

Taljaard says confirmed cases who choose home quarantine go through intense discussions with doctors before a decision is made.

“We would have a discussion, discuss their home situation, discuss their abilities to understand what we’re telling them, and we will decide together with the patient if they can go home and self-isolate.

He adds, “There’s a good guideline that we give them of what to do at home. There’s also a video that we show them with examples of what can be done at home. So it’s a collective decision between clinical and the patient whether it can be done safely at home.” The map below tracks coronavirus cases across the world: