Expressing alarm both about mounting infections and inadequate government responses, the World Health Organization declared Wednesday that the global coronavirus crisis is now a pandemic but added that it’s not too late for countries to act.

By reversing course and using the charged word “pandemic” that it had previously shied away from, the U.N. health agency sought to shock lethargic countries into pulling out all the stops.

“We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action. We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO chief.

For most, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for a few, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia. More than 121,000 people have been infected worldwide and over 4,300 have died.

But the vast majority of people recover. According to the WHO, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

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