The world is in “uncharted territory” on the coronavirus outbreak, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.
Doctors had “never before seen a respiratory pathogen capable of community transmission”, its chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said.
Deaths globally have now passed 3,000. Most are in China but in the past day there were nine times more new infections outside China than inside.
However, Dr Tedros insisted: “We can still push this virus back”.
He said the development of the Covid-19 disease globally was not a “one-way street” and could be combated if countries acted quickly and effectively – starting with containment measures.
“There is no choice but to act now,” he said.
Dr Tedros’s main advice was that each country had to look at their own situation as there was no one-way-fits-all means of tackling the outbreak.
“Each country must have its own approach but it must start with containment,” he said.
This was a “unique virus with unique features” and the WHO would have expected wide contagion by now, but containment measures had appeared to work, the doctor said.
Of the 62 countries reporting cases of infection, 38 of them had 10 or fewer, he added.
“Around eight countries have not reported new cases for two weeks and have been able to contain the outbreak,” he said. China had also shown containment was possible even in countries with a large number of cases.
The WHO would continue to monitor whether the outbreak should be called a global pandemic, Dr Tedros said.
South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan remain the greatest concern. A WHO staff member has tested positive in Iran, although the symptoms are mild, Dr Tedros said.
There are now almost 90,000 cases worldwide, although the vast majority – more than 90 per cent – remain in China, and most of those are in Hubei province, where the virus originated late last year.
Of the nearly 8,800 cases outside China, 81per cent are in four countries – Iran, South Korea, Italy and Japan.
Iran reported another 12 deaths on Monday, taking the total there to 66. They included Mohammad Mirmohammadi, a high-ranking adviser to the country’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Iranian media reported.
Portugal, Iceland, Jordan, Tunisia, Armenia, Latvia, Senegal and Andorra also reported their first confirmed cases on Monday. -BBC