WHO declares COVID-19 disease to be a pandemic

The coronavirus crisis continues to unfold across the globe as the World Health Organization uses the word for the first time.
Image: Slovakia
A worker wearing protective clothes disinfects the inside of a public bus in Bratislava, Slovakia, on Wednesday.Vladimir Simicek / AFP - Getty Images

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

For the first time, the World Health Organization called the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, a pandemic. Meanwhile, the United States now has more than 1,000 people infected with the coronavirus — but testing in the country is still ramping up, meaning that number could continue to climb.

WHO defines a pandemic as the worldwide spread of a new disease for which most people do not have immunity.

On Wednesday, the governor of New York questioned the number of people who have been tested for the virus in the U.S.

“When they do the retrospective on this one, they are going to say, 'Why did it take the Unites States so long to bring up the testing capacity?'” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on "TODAY." On Tuesday, Cuomo announced that he was implementing a "containment area" around a one-mile radius in the city of New Rochelle, home to one of the largest clusters of coronavirus cases in the country.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that more than 8,500 specimens have been tested for the coronavirus across the U.S. Because multiple specimens are required from each individual, the number of actual patients who have been tested is likely far lower.

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Download the NBC News app for latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak.

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading March 12 Coronavirus news.

Seoul subway trains disinfected as coronavirus cases increase in South Korea

London enhances 'cleaning regime' amid coronavirus outbreak

London's public transport is getting a deep clean amid the coronavirus outbreak, the mayor said Wednesday.

In a video message on Twitter, Sadiq Khan said they have stepped up the cleaning regime on the public transit network to use an enhanced anti-viral fluid common in hospitals. 

All buses will now have regularly touched areas, such as poles and doors, carefully wiped down with the strong disinfectant every day. 

Key interchanges will also be cleaned more regularly than usual, including during the day.

"I want to reassure Londoners and visitors that the advice from experts is to continue with our daily lives as normal, including using public transport," Khan said. 

More than 370 cases of coronavirus and six deaths have been reported in the U.K. 

Coronavirus could be worst economic disaster since financial crisis, warns head of Europe's central bank

Europe could be facing an economic fallout on the same scale as the financial crisis in 2008, warned Christine Lagarde, head of the European Central Bank.

Lagarde made the comments Tuesday in a call with European Union leaders, saying that unless they worked together to address the epidemic, Europe would see "a scenario that will remind many of us of the 2008 Great Financial Crisis."

Italy, one of the financial centers of Europe, is grappling with 10,000 cases of the coronavirus, with the entire country shut down as attempts continue to contain its spread. Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Wednesday that up to 70 percent of that country could eventually be infected.

Dow tumbles almost 800 points as questions mount regarding Trump's stimulus package

Wall Street plunged on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average sinking by almost 800 points after the opening bell, as fears mounted about the possibility — and timing — of an economic aid package from the White House in the face of the growing coronavirus epidemic.

All three major averages were down by around 3 percent in morning trading on Wednesday.

We apologize, this video has expired.

Market participants remain concerned about a global economic slowdown and potential recession if the administration does not step in to shore up the U.S. economy, especially small businesses.

While Trump has floated ideas such as a permanent payroll tax cut, there is concern that such efforts may not be legislated in time to have an effect.

“We need to see meaningful support for economic activity and credit backstops especially for small businesses, not a targeted approach executed only by the executive branch,” wrote Joe Kalish, chief global macro strategist at Ned Davis Research, in a note to investors. “We will likely need congressional involvement."

Doctor tweets his experience of having Coronavirus

A doctor in Spain is tweeting daily updates of life under quarantine with coronavirus, even sharing ultrasounds of his lungs. 

Yale Tung Chen, 35, said over the phone that he contracted coronavirus while treating patients in his work as an emergency physician at Hospital Universitario La Paz in Madrid. 

He was diagnosed on Sunday and has been in quarantine in his home in Madrid ever since. 


Chen said he wanted his experience to be educational, but wasn't expecting the compassionate response he received from social media users. “It meant the whole world to me to receive support from people all around the world,” he said. 

Uber may suspend accounts of riders, drivers who test positive for coronavirus

Uber notified riders and drivers that it may temporarily suspend the accounts of anyone who has tested positive for the coronavirus or have been exposed to it, the ride-hailing company said on Wednesday.

The company, which has already taken action in some affected markets, said it had a team working around-the-clock to support public health authorities in their response to the epidemic.

Uber last month suspended 240 accounts of users in Mexico who may recently have come in contact with someone possibly infected with the new coronavirus.

Man rescued after being trapped 69 hours in collapsed coronavirus hotel

Lufthansa cancels 23,000 flights due to 'exceptional circumstances'

German air carrier Lufthansa announced Wednesday it will have to cancel a total of 23,000 short-, medium- and long-haul flights due to "exceptional circumstances" caused by the spread of the coronavirus.

The airline published a reduced flight schedule for the period from March 29 to April 24, with adjustments mainly affecting routes in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

It said further cancellations are expected in coming weeks.

Airlines have been hit hard by the growing coronavirus epidemic, with many having to cancel or cut back flights as demand for flying falls amid fears of a possible pandemic. 

Coronavirus casts shadow over tsunami, Fukushima disaster anniversary ceremonies

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, observes a moment of silence at 2:46 p.m. (1:46 a.m. ET) — the moment nine years ago that a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off Japan's coast, triggering a devastating tsunami and nuclear disaster. During the ceremony in the prime minister's offices in Tokyo, officials sat in chairs placed a few feet apart in effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.Yoshitaka Sugawara / AP
Japanese monks pray for victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster during a memorial service on the coast in Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture.AFP - Getty Images

Flight diverted after passengers caused disruption in response to sneezes

Growing public concern about the coronavirus is beginning to manifest in problematic ways. 

A United Airlines flight was diverted Sunday after several passengers became disruptive because they were seated next to someone they thought was sick. 

The flight, scheduled to go from Colorado ski country to Newark, New Jersey, landed in Denver. Denver police said three people were upset about sick person on their flight.

The diversion adds to other examples of people acting out due to fear of coronavirus, including numerous instances of racism directed at Asian people.