TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club(YJC)_The virus has proliferated around the globe over the past week, emerging on every continent except Antarctica, prompting many governments and businesses to try to stop people from traveling or gathering in crowded places.
It has killed more than 2,800 people and infected over 84,000 worldwide -- the vast majority in China -- since it emerged apparently from an animal market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late December.
But it is its rapid spread to new zones that has authorities concerned -- in the past 24 hours, it has affected nine new countries, from Azerbaijan to Mexico to New Zealand.
“We have now increased our assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of impact of COVID-19 to very high at global level,” WHO’s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters.
“We do not see evidence as yet that the virus is spreading freely in communities. As long as that's the case, we still have a chance of containing this virus.”
Global investors nevertheless ran scared, with world markets suffering their worst week since the 2008 financial crisis.
The chair of the US Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, said the central bank stood at the ready to intervene if needed, given the "evolving" risks to the world's largest economy posed by the deadly outbreak.
New drastic measures were put in place: Switzerland cancelled all gatherings of more than 1,000 people, and Saudi Arabia banned Gulf citizens from its holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
“This is not a time for panic. It is time to be prepared -- fully prepared,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.