The World Health Organisation has declared a swine-flu pandemic, the first gobal flu pandemic for 41 years.
WHO director general, Dr Margaret Chan, said:
The world is now at the start of the 2009 influenza pandemic.
We are in the earliest days of the pandemic. The virus is spreading under a close and careful watch.
No previous pandemic has been detected so early or watched so closely, in real-time, right at the very beginning. The world can now reap the benefits of investments, over the last five years, in pandemic preparedness.
We have a head start. This places us in a strong position. But it also creates a demand for advice and reassurance in the midst of limited data and considerable scientific uncertainty.
Thanks to close monitoring, thorough investigations, and frank reporting from countries, we have some early snapshots depicting spread of the virus and the range of illness it can cause.
We know, too, that this early, patchy picture can change very quickly. The virus writes the rules and this one, like all influenza viruses, can change the rules, without rhyme or reason, at any time.
In a media release yesterday, Health Minsiter Tony Ryall said that when WHO escalated its response there would be no need for as significant change in what was being done here. The focus was on containment.
The first concern is for health but there will also be economic costs through people having to take time off work and, while WHO is not advising any restrictions on travel, the pandemic is likely to lead to a downturn in tourism.