The World Health Organization (WHO) Friday raised the risk assessment of COVID-19 from "high" to "very high" at the global level.
"We're on the highest level of alert and risk assessment in terms of spread and impact, but that's not to alarm and scare people," said Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Friday raised the risk assessment of COVID-19 from "high" to "very high" at a global level.
"Our epidemiologists have been monitoring these developments continuously, and we have now increased our assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of the impact of COVID-19 to very high at a global level," said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a daily briefing.
WHO is concerned over the continued increase in the number of cases and affected countries over the last few days.
Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Nigeria have all reported their first cases Thursday, with all the cases having links to Italy.
Despite the increase, there is no evidence of the virus spreading freely in communities, said the WHO chief, underlining that there's still the chance of containing it "if robust action is taken to detect cases early, isolate and care for patients and trace contacts."
"There is a window of opportunity (to contain the virus), although it's narrowing more and more by the day," the WHO chief said, reiterating that strategies starting from containment can work.
Also at the briefing, Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, explained that raising the risk assessment at the global level "doesn't make a legal difference to the way in which states have to act," but essentially reflects what's happening at the global level.
"We're on the highest level of alert and risk assessment in terms of spread and impact, but that's not to alarm and scare people," he said.
Instead, it's to get countries to understand that it's in their control to contain the virus."It's a reality check for every government" to wake up and get ready for the virus, Ryan said.
And sources within Iran's healthcare system told BBC Persian that, as of Thursday evening, at least 210 people had died from the virus. This is more than six times higher than the official government figure.
At a press conference in Geneva, Dr Tedros said that most cases could still be traced, and there was no evidence of the virus "spreading freely in communities".
His colleague, Dr. Mike Ryan, head of the WHO's Emergency Health Programme, said that the risk level was intended to serve as a "reality check" for governments since healthcare systems were still unprepared.
"You have a duty to your citizens, you have a duty to the world to be ready," said Dr Ryan.