Coronavirus: WHO warns risk of global spread very high

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday raised the global risk assessment of the COVID-19, commonly referred to as the novel coronavirus, to “very high" but said containment was still possible.

“The continued increase in the number of cases, and the number of affected countries over the last few days, are clearly of concern.

Our epidemiologists have been monitoring these developments continuously, and we have now increased our assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of impact of COVID-19 to very high at a global level," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general WHO.

“We do not see evidence as yet that the virus is spreading freely in communities. As long as that’s the case, we still have a chance of containing this virus, if robust action is taken to detect cases early, isolate and care for patients and trace contacts," said Tedros.

“The key to containing this virus is to break the chains of transmission."

China, where the virus was first reported, has reported a total of 78,959 cases of COVID-19 to WHO, including 2,791 deaths. In a sliver hope, however, in the past 24 hours, the country reported 329 cases – the lowest in more than a month.

But for WHO the immediate concern is the rising number of cases outside China.

“Outside China (there) are now 4,351 cases in 49 countries, and 67 deaths. Since yesterday, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Netherlands and Nigeria have all reported their first cases.