GENEVA: About 3.4 per cent of confirmed COVID-19 cases have died, said the World Health Organization on Tuesday (Mar 4), which is far above seasonal flu's fatality rate of under 1 per cent.
However, the novel coronavirus can still be contained, said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Geneva.
"To summarise, COVID-19 spreads less efficiently than flu, transmission does not appear to be driven by people who are not sick, it causes more severe illness than flu, there are not yet any vaccines or therapeutics, and it can be contained," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
Health officials have said the death rate is 2 per cent to 4 per cent depending on the country and may be much lower if there are thousands of unreported mild cases of the disease.
Tedros also said that the coronavirus appears to now be spreading much more rapidly outside China than within.
Almost eight times as many cases had been reported outside China as inside in the previous 24 hours, said Tedros, adding that the risk of coronavirus spreading was now very high at a global level.
Tedros said outbreaks in South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan were the greatest concern, but that there was evidence that close surveillance was working in South Korea, the worst affected country outside China, and the epidemic could be contained there.
PROTECTIVE GEAR TO FIGHT COVID-19 "RAPIDLY DEPLETING"
WHO on Wednesday warned that protective gear needed to fight the disease was "rapidly depleting", voicing concern that the masks, goggles and other protective equipment used by health workers were running out amid panic buying and manipulation of markets.
Tedros urged a dramatic hike in production, saying WHO estimates the response to COVID-19 would require 89 million medical masks, 76 million pairs of examination gloves and 1.6 million goggles each month.
The coronavirus, which emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, has spread around the world, with more new cases now appearing outside China than inside.
There are almost 91,000 cases globally of which more than 80,000 are in China. China's death toll was nearly 3,000 with more than 160 fatalities elsewhere.