Q&A: What the WHO pandemic declaration means

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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization speaks during a news conference on updates regarding on the novel coronavirus COVID-19, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, March 9, 2020. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)

The new coronavirus outbreak is now a pandemic. So what does that mean?

“Pandemic” has nothing to do with how serious the illness is. It just means a disease is spreading widely.

The head of the World Health Organization, which made the declaration Wednesday, said the U.N. health agency is deeply concerned about the alarming levels of spread.

But at the same time WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made clear the declaration didn't mean that countries should give up trying to contain the virus, which has infected more than 120,000 people around the world and killed more than 4,300.

“We should double down and we should be more aggressive. That's what we are saying,” Tedros said.

Some questions and answers about the declaration:

WHAT DOES THE DECLARATION DO?

The label triggers governments to activate preparedness plans and possibly take emergency procedures to protect the public, such as more drastic travel and trade restrictions.