World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom has declared the COVID-19 virus a pandemic and urged countries across the world to find, isolate, test and treat every case.
"I have said from the beginning that countries must take a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach, built around a comprehensive strategy to prevent infections, save lives and minimise impact," Adhanom said at a press conference in Switzerland.
"All countries must strike a fine balance between protecting health, minimizing economic and social disruption and respecting human rights".
With a staggering 487 new coronavirus cases announced on Wednesday, Spain has now overtaken France in having the second-highest number of infections in Europe, behind Italy.
The number of deaths from coronavirus in Italy rose by nearly 200 in a day, to a total of 827, according to the country’s Civil Protection Department. Confirmed coronavirus cases went up by more than 2,000 to 12,462.
The new figures came as Germany’s Angela Merkel warned that up to 70% of the German population could be infected with COVID-19.
Merkel said most of the German population could be infected with coronavirus, based on current estimates of the spread and the lack of a vaccine.
However, she appeared to criticise Austria’s decision to ban arrivals from Italy for anyone who isn’t certified free of COVID-19, saying that shutting borders was an "inappropriate response."
"We should not be trying to isolate ourselves," she said.
Slovenia has also closed its border with Italy, which France’s President Emmanuel Macron said was "a bad decision."
Meanwhile, the next round of post-Brexit trade talks is likely to be shelved over coronavirus, a UK minister said on Wednesday.
Michael Gove, who is overseeing the negotiations for Boris Johnson’s government, said he had received "indications ... that there may be specific public health concerns" over the March 30 talks in London.
It came as British health minister Nadine Dorries tested positive for coronavirus, days after attending the same Downing Street reception as the prime minister, his pregnant fiancee and other senior figures. However, a spokesman said Johnson is not being tested because he is showing ’no symptoms’.
In other latest coronavirus developments:
* Hungary announces state of emergency
* UK finance minister unveils €13.7 billion stimulus to fight coronavirus downturn
* Turkey confirms its first case
* Ukraine and Poland shut schools and universities for two weeks
* Madrid metro urges elderly and sick to avoid public transport
* British health authorities unveil interactive source of data on coronavirus infections
* France’s Macron will make a ’short’ TV address on Thursday evening
* Scientific conference on coronavirus is cancelled due to coronavirus