1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites
HealthGlobal issues

COVID: One year on from the WHO declaring a pandemic

March 11, 2021

March 11 marks one year since the World Health Organization described COVID as a pandemic. With vaccine issues still prevalent, the end of the coronavirus is not yet in sight.

Symbol of the coronavirus as the globe, with a syringe
March 11 marks exactly one year since the WHO described the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemicImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Geisler-Fotopress

DW correspondents share how countries worldwide are coping with pandemic

Thursday marked one year since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), with various global leaders expressing cautious optimism about the future.

Today, the path out of the pandemic is still not yet clear, with more contagious mutations threatening to hinder the progress made by vaccinations, which were successfully produced after a lightning-fast quest last year.

What happened one year ago?

When the WHO declared the coronavirus a pandemic one year ago, it did so only after weeks of resisting the term and maintaining that the highly infectious virus could still be stopped.

The WHO waved its first significant warning flag on January 30, 2020, by describing the outbreak as an international health emergency, though praising China for its efforts in preventing the novel virus from spreading.

Only when WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared a "pandemic'" six weeks later, on March 11, did most governments take action.

But by then, it was too late, and the virus had reached every continent except Antarctica.

Following the WHO's pandemic declaration, lockdowns were implemented like dominoes across the globe, with varying degrees of stringency and success.

Social distancing and mask-wearing became the norm as sports events were canceled and global travel, as well as economies, ground to a halt.

One year on from WHO declaration, DW correspondents take stock


"One year on, Israel is one of the leading nations when it comes to vaccination campaigns against COVID-19," according to DW's Tania Krämer in Jerusalem. "Over 50% of Israelis have received at least one dose of the vaccine. But health officials are still concerned about the new variants."

South Africa

"Despite the problems and the economic hardship, people here are trying to remain optimistic and there are reasons for that," DW correspondent Adrian Kriesch said in Cape Town. "The second wave was not as bad as predicted, especially considering the new mutation of the virus that was discovered here in South Africa for the first time."


"A year ago, India was just beginning to talk about the coronavirus, and many of the people we spoke to were skeptical about just how serious it is," DW's Nimisha Jaiswal said from Delhi. "With markets, airports and even some offices almost returning to normal, many are once again wondering just how seriously they still need to take the coronavirus."

COVID-19 hits teen mental health

What is the status around the world?

Almost 120 million cases of the coronavirus have been reported worldwide since reports of a SARS-like virus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of 2019.

More than 2.6 million people have since died from the virus, according to the Johns Hopkins University, a staggering toll unimaginable before the virus swept the globe.

Now, one year on, countries are hoping vaccines will clear the path to a return to normal, but the rollout has been uneven globally, with demand far outstripping supply.

What challenges remain?

A year after declaring a pandemic, the WHO is grappling with vaccine nationalism, as it tries to keep up with the rapidly evolving science surrounding COVID-19.

The UN's health agency is still struggling to persuade countries to abandon their nationalistic tendencies and help get vaccines where they're needed most.

John Silk Editor and writer for English news, as well as the Culture and Asia Desks.@JSilk