GENEVA: There are now more new cases of the coronavirus reported each day outside China than inside the hardest-hit country, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday (Feb 26).
On Tuesday, the number of new cases reported outside China exceeded new cases reported by Beijing for the first time, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told diplomats in Geneva, according to a written version of his speech.
The UN health agency put the number of new cases in China at 411 on Tuesday and those registered outside the country at 427.
Governments worldwide are scrambling to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus after a surge of infections in Italy, Iran and South Korea.
While the sudden increase of cases" in those countries was "deeply concerning", the virus can still be contained and does not amount to a pandemic, Tedros said.
Infections linked to Iran have been confirmed in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Oman, while cases tied to Italy have been found in Algeria, Austria, Croatia, Germany, Spain and Switzerland, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
On Wednesday, Italian officials announced a 12th death linked to the outbreak and another jump in the number of cases, which now stands at 374.
South Korea, which with 1,261 cases has the most outside China, reported 284 new ones including a US soldier, as authorities readied an ambitious plan to test more than 200,000 members of a church at the centre of the outbreak.
Nineteen people have died and 139 people have been infected by coronavirus in Iran, health ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said on Wednesday in an announcement on state TV.
"We should not be too eager to declare a pandemic without a careful and clear-minded analysis of the facts," he added, stressing that such a declaration could "signal that we can no longer contain the virus, which is not true."
"We are in a fight that can be won if we do the right things."
But he insisted that WHO would not hesitate to declare a pandemic "if it is an accurate description of the situation."
"I am not downplaying the seriousness of the situation, or the potential for this to become a pandemic, because it has that potential," he said.
"All countries, whether they have cases or not, must prepare for a potential pandemic."
Tedros said a WHO mission would travel to Iran at the weekend. It had originally meant to travel there on Tuesday.