The COVID-19 pandemic, otherwise known as the coronavirus pandemic, is still ongoing exactly three years after the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared it as a global pandemic.

As the world marks the third anniversary of the pandemic, we look back on the official declaration made on March 11, 2020.


The COVID-19 pandemic got its name from the contagious disease known as the coronavirus disease 2019. This disease is caused by a strain of the coronavirus known as the severe accute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, otherwise known as SARS-CoV-2.

While the pandemic was only officially declared on March 11, 2020, the first cases were detected in 2019. According to The Guardian, the earliest case was actually detected on November 17. The Guardian's report cites the South China Morning Post (SCMP) as its source.

The Guardian notes that that SCMP "said Chinese authorities had identified at least 266 people who contracted the virus" in 2019. The November 17 case is also noted to have happened "said Chinese authorities had identified at least 266 people who contracted the virus."

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WHO Officially Declares a Pandemic

The WHO Officially Declared COVID-19 as a Pandemic on This Day in 2020

(Photo : FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus talks during a daily press briefing on COVID-19 virus at the WHO headquaters in Geneva on March 11, 2020. - WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced on March 11, 2020 that the new coronavirus outbreak can now be characterised as a pandemic.

The WHO officially declared the COVID-19 pandemic three months after the earliest detected case.

The opening remarks of WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the media briefing on March 11, 2020, highlighted that, at that time, "the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has tripled."

The WHO Director-General said:

There are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 people have lost their lives.

Thousands more are fighting for their lives in hospitals.

In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher.

WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and 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 characterized as a pandemic.

You can view the whole speech here. You can likewise watch media briefing below.

COVID-19 Numbers Today

Exactly three years after the COVID-19 pandemic was officially declared, the pandemic is still ongoing, and it is unclear whether the classification will change anytime soon.

As of press time, WHO numbers show that there have been nearly 759.50 million COVID-19 cases around the world. Almost 6.87 million have died of the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2.

By region, Europe has recorded the most number of COVID-19 cases at almost 273.67 million. Europe is followed by Western Pacific region and the Americas at 201.52 million and 190.68 million, respectively.

By country, the top ten nations with the most number of COVID-19 cases as of writing are as follows:

  • United States of America
  • China
  • India
  • France
  • Germany
  • Brazil
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Italy
  • United Kingdom

Much progress has been made since March 11, 2020, as there are now vacciness available that help to prevent severe COVID-19 cases. According to the numbers of the WHO, almost 13.23 billion vaccine doses have been administered.

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