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World marks one year since WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic

FILE - In this Monday, March 9, 2020 file photo, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization speaks during a news conference, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. When the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic one year ago Thursday, March 11 it did so only after weeks of resisting the term and maintaining the highly infectious virus could still be stopped. A year later, the U.N. agency is still struggling to keep on top of the evolving science of COVID-19, to persuade countries to abandon their nationalistic tendencies and help get vaccines where they’re needed most. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP, file)

It's been a full year since the head of the WHO characterized COVID-19 as a global pandemic

More than 900,000 cases of COVID-19, over 22,000 deaths recorded in Canada to date

As more people get inoculated, governments have begun looking at easing restrictions

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It has now been one year since the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

On March 11, 2020, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced to the world that he was deeply concerned about “the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction” against the coronavirus, which to date has killed more than 2.6 million people.

“We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic,” the head of the UN agency said.

That set the stage for a virtual shutdown of countries around the world, including Canada. In the months that followed, lives were shifted an effort to reduce the spread of the virus.

The fall-out in Canada included border closures, isolation and panic-buying, a summer of curtailed activities, businesses and many workers hit hard, and a new world in healthcare and at school.

The focus was always on the numbers and that curve, graphing the rate of infection.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced March 11, 2021 a National Day of Observance to commemorate those who have lost their lives to COVID-19 and the impact it has had on all Canadians.

This followed the anniversary of the first death related to the coronavirus in Canada. A man in his 80s who was living at a care home in North Vancouver died on March 8 after contracting the virus.

As of Thursday morning, there have been nearly 900,000 cases of COVID-19 in Canada. To date, more than 22,000 people have died.

Globally, there have been more than 118 million cases of COVID-19 so far — 10 times the number of infections reported one year ago today.

“We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic,” said Ghebreyesus.

“We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus, and we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled at the same time,” he added.

The WHO’s declaration to characterize COVID-19 a pandemic followed the agency’s move in January 2020 to declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern over the virus.

That is the highest level of alarm under international law, the WHO said.

A year later, COVID-19 vaccination efforts have been mobilized around the world. It took a matter of months for companies to begin work to create vaccines against the coronavirus, with countries beginning approvals in December. In Canada, four vaccines were approved for use as of the beginning of March.

“It would be very easy to take for granted incredible, world-wide, and population-effort that has brought us not one but multiple safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. In fact, the timeliness, safety, and effectiveness of these vaccines was not a given,” Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said.

While the country’s efforts didn’t get off to a smooth start, the rollout has accelerated in many parts with the approval of additional shots.

As more people get inoculated, governments have begun looking at easing restrictions. In B.C., the province’s top doctor offered some hope to people, saying some measures could be rolled back if the situation continues to improve.