The number of new coronavirus cases being officially reported outside China has exceeded those reported by Beijing for the first time since the outbreak began, the World Health Organisation has said. There were 427 new cases reported by 37 countries on Tuesday (local time), compared with 411 by China, according to WHO. WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the sudden increases of cases in Italy, Iran and the South Korea were “deeply concerning”.
Coronavirus is now spreading faster outside of China for the first time
Infections linked to Iran had been confirmed in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Oman, while cases tied to Italy had been found in Algeria, Austria, Croatia, Germany, Spain and Switzerland, Mr Tedros said.
South America on Wednesday (local time) also recorded its first case after Brazil’s Government confirmed a 61-year-old Brazilian who returned from Italy this month tested positive.
This means the virus has now spread to every continent except Antarctica.
About 81,000 people around the globe have been sickened by the coronavirus, while more than 2,700 people have died since the outbreak began in December.
“The increase in cases outside China has prompted some media and politicians to push for a pandemic to be declared,” he said.
“We should not be too eager to declare a pandemic without a careful and clear-minded analysis of the facts.”
On January 30, the WHO already declared a public health emergency of international concern, “our highest level of alarm”, he said in remarks to Geneva-based diplomats.
“Using the word pandemic carelessly has no tangible benefit, but it does have significant risk in terms of amplifying unnecessary and unjustified fear and stigma, and paralysing systems,” he added.
“It may also 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.”
Mr Tedros said a WHO mission would travel to Iran at the weekend to provide support. It had originally meant to travel there on Tuesday.
Nineteen people have died and 139 people have been infected by coronavirus in Iran.
“We don’t expect a miracle in the short term,” Iran health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said.
Meanwhile, Italy recorded 52 new infections on Wednesday — bringing its total to 374 — and Greece became the newest country to see a case of the virus.
South Korea announced 284 new cases, largely in Daegu, bringing its total to 1,261.
China, still the epicentre of the crisis even as new outposts caught the world’s attention, reported 406 new cases and 52 more deaths. The country has a total of 78,604 cases of the virus and 2,715 fatalities.