Video: 5 things to know about the coronavirus pandemic

MSF Intervention in Alcalá de Henares

Spain 2020 © Olmo Calvo/MSF

We’ve never seen a global outbreak like the new coronavirus disease, or COVID-19. It threatens to overwhelm health systems and health workers everywhere unless we all take immediate action.

Here are five things to know about what makes this pandemic so dangerous, and what can be done to slow the spread of the virus. Simple measures can help flatten the curve of the epidemic, including social distancing and proper hand washing. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is responding to the coronavirus outbreak around the world while also working to keep our regular medical programs running. We are very concerned about the virus spreading to vulnerable groups such as refugees and other people living in overcrowded conditions, with limited access to health care.


Help us respond to medical emergencies around the world


Social distancing saves lives

This is an emergency. 

With no treatment or vaccine, slowing the spread of coronavirus around the world is critical.

One of the most important things we can do is “social distancing” - which means keeping some physical distance from other people. By staying home and avoiding large groups, we can dramatically lower the rate of infection. 

This keeps everyone safer, and helps ensure our health care systems don’t get overwhelmed. 

We all need to do our part to flatten the curve of this epidemic.


Health care workers need protection

Health workers on the front lines of this pandemic are also the most exposed to infection. 

We need to make sure they have the personal protective equipment they need to do their job safely—so they can help keep the rest of us safe and healthy, too.

We need to prioritize the scarce supplies of face masks, gloves, and other essential equipment for health workers.


Vulnerable communities face even greater risks

This pandemic is especially threatening to those who are already struggling to get basic health care. 

We’re very concerned about the safety of refugees and displaced people—including those in Mexico, Greece, Syria, and Bangladesh.



Any new treatments and vaccines must be affordable and available to all

Scientists are in a race against time to develop new tools against coronavirus. 

Once we do have the proven drugs and vaccines we need to end this outbreak, everyone should have access to them. 

Drug companies must not use this pandemic as an excuse for more profiteering. 

Public health needs come first.


People still have other urgent medical needs

We’ve seen health systems completely collapse in the face of an epidemic, like the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. 

We’ve never seen a global pandemic on this scale.

That’s why we’re focused on maintaining our lifesaving medical projects around the world. 

People still need access to maternity care, measles vaccines, surgeries for war wounds, and HIV and TB care - just to name a few. 

We’ll keep doing everything we can to respond to coronavirus while providing medical care to the people who need it most.