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'Very real' threat of coronavirus outbreak becoming pandemic, WHO says

Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference on the situation of the coronavirus (COVID-2019), in Geneva, Switzerland, February 28, 2020.
Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference on the situation of the coronavirus (COVID-2019), in Geneva, Switzerland, February 28, 2020. © Denis Balibouse, Reuters

The coronavirus is closer to causing a pandemic but outbreaks in countries can still be controled through a combination of containment and mitigation measures, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

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"Now that the virus has a foothold in so many countries, the threat of a pandemic has become very real," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, told a news conference. "But it would be the first pandemic that could be controlled. The bottom line is we are not at the mercy of the virus."

Four countries account for 93% of the nearly 110,000 cases worldwide, Tedros said. "We are encouraged that Italy is taking aggressive measures to contain its epidemic and we hope that those measures prove effective in the coming days," he added.

>> Read more: France's culture minister has coronavirus

According to an AFP tally Monday, the number of deaths in Europe from the coronavirus has topped 500, including the latest jump in Italy from 366 to 463 deaths. The figure tallies 21 deaths in France, 16 in Spain, four in Britain, three in the Netherlands, two in Switzerland and two in Germany.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)

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