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Novel coronavirus has pandemic potential — WHO

"Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely, it has. Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet," the WHO chief said

GENEVA, February 24. /TASS/. The outbreak of novel coronavirus infection, detected in China and a number of other countries, has the potential for becoming a pandemic, World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during Monday’s briefing in Geneva.

"Using the word pandemic now does not fit the facts," he said, describing the current situation as "epidemics in different parts of the world, affecting countries in different ways and requiring a tailored response."

"Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely, it has. Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet," Ghebreyesus added.

According to the WHO Director General, the decision about whether to use the word "pandemic" to describe an epidemic is made as a result of assessment of the "geographical spread of the virus, the severity of disease it causes and the impact it has on the whole of society."

"For the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus, and we are not witnessing large-scale severe disease or death," the official said, adding that the sudden increases of cases in Italy, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Korea "are deeply concerning."

Ghebreyesus called upon all nations to focus on containment, while preparing for a potential pandemic.

"There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Every country must make its own risk assessment for its own context. WHO is also continuing to do its own risk assessment and is monitoring the evolution of the epidemic around the clock," he said.

Meanwhile, WHO Health Emergencies Programme Executive Director Michael Ryan told reporters that a group of WHO experts will visit Iran to help the Islamic Republic tackle the coronavirus.

On December 31, Chinese authorities informed the World Health Organization (WHO) about an outbreak of an unknown pneumonia in the city of Wuhan - a large trade and industrial center in central China populated by 12 million people. The source of the outbreak is the COVID-19 coronavirus. Besides China, the cases of COVID-19 have been detected in 32 countries, including Russia. The WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak in China a global health emergency.

Currently, the total number of people infected with the novel coronavirus has exceeded 77,000 in China, with nearly 2,600 deaths. Some 25,000 people have recovered to date.