On 31 December 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause in Wuhan City, China. A novel coronavirus was identified as the cause by Chinese authorities on 7 January 2020 and was temporarily named 2019-nCoV. Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. The new virus was subsequently named the COVID-19 virus.

On 11 March 2020, the rapid increase in the number of cases outside China led WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to announce that the outbreak could be characterized as a pandemic. By then more than 118,000 cases had been reported in 114 countries, and 4,291 deaths had been recorded. By mid-March 2020, the WHO European Region had become the epicentre of the epidemic, reporting over 40% of globally confirmed cases. As of 28 April 2020, 63% of global mortality from the virus was from the Region.

Since the first cases were reported, WHO has worked around the clock to support countries to prepare and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the words of Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe: Through transparent knowledge-sharing, tailored support on the ground, and steadfast solidarity, we will beat COVID-19.


In agreement with the WHO Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, Free&Union encourages skaters and individuals of all ages to take care of their own health and protect others by:


  • washing hands frequently with water and soap or using hand-sanitizing gel;
  • maintaining social distancing (keeping a distance of 1 metre/3 feet between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing);
  • avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth;
  • following respiratory hygiene (covering your mouth and nose with your folded elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze, then disposing of the used tissue immediately);
  • seeking medical care early if you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing; and
  • staying informed and following advice given by your health care provider, national and local public health authority, or employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

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