GENEVA, Feb. 24 (CNA) - The World Health Organization on Monday (Feb 24) said the new coronavirus epidemic had "peaked" in China but warned that a surge in cases elsewhere was "deeply concerning" and all countries should prepare for a "potential pandemic".
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the peak in China occurred between Jan 23 and Feb 2 and the number of new cases there "has been declining steadily since then.
"This virus can be contained," he told reporters in Geneva, praising China for helping to prevent an even bigger spread of the disease through unprecedented lockdowns and quarantines in or near the outbreak's epicentre.
An acceleration of cases in other parts of the world has prompted similar drastic measures. Italy has locked down 11 towns and South Korea ordered the entire 2.5 million residents of the city of Daegu to remain indoors.
It also caused falls of more than 3.0 per cent in several European stock markets - with Milan plunging 5.4 per cent - and a boost for safe-haven gold amid fears the epidemic could hit a global economic recovery.
The spread of the disease - officially known as COVID-19 - continued unabated with Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Oman announcing their first cases on Monday.