WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told reporters the outbreak was “getting bigger” and reiterated the organization’s warning that the deadly flu-like virus could spread worldwide.
His comments at a news conference in Geneva came shortly after Nigeria confirmed sub-Saharan Africa’s first case and two days after Brazil reported Latin America’s first COVID-19 infection.
As of Friday, more than 83,000 cases of the coronavirus had been confirmed worldwide, with infections reported in every continent except Antarctica.
The vast majority of those cases has been reported in China, where the epidemic started at the end of last year.
China’s National Health Commission said Friday an additional 327 people had contracted the virus, with an additional 44 deaths nationwide. Altogether, China has reported 78,824 coronavirus cases, including 2,788 deaths.
Earlier this week, the WHO had warned countries to be prepared for the coronavirus to be “literally knocking at the door.”
The United Nations health agency, which recognized the outbreak as a global health emergency late last month, has recently suggested that the virus has “pandemic potential.”
Lindmeier said Friday the organization would also investigate reports of some people getting reinfected with COVID-19, after a woman in Japan was thought to have contracted the virus for a second time.
He added that a person who had the coronavirus infection would generally be immune “for at least a while,” with the WHO poised to review how tests had been taken.
South Korea, Italy and Iran have all recorded sharp upticks in cases of the coronavirus in recent days, with many other countries imposing travel restrictions on virus-hit areas worldwide.
Belarus, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, New Zealand and Nigeria on Friday reported their first cases.
Intensifying concern over the international spread of the coronavirus has put global stock markets on track for their worst week since the financial crisis.
The MSCI ACWI and MSCI World index, both equity benchmarks that track global firms, are down around 9% since Monday and are set to mark their worst week since 2008.