Novel coronavirus, which has killed around 4,300 people across the world, can be characterised as a "pandemic", the World Health Organization has announced.
"WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction. We have therefore made the assessment that COVID19 can be characterized as a pandemic," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom said at a press conference.
A disease or an outbreak is declared a pandemic when it occurs over a massive geographical area - for instance several continents. Coronavirus, which originated in China's Wuhan, has so far infected more than 119,711 people globally.
"Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death. Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO's assessment of the threat posed by this coronavirus," he added.
He said the world has never seen a pandemic triggered by a coronavirus, and a pandemic that can be controlled.
"We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action. We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear," he added.
Since the novel coronavirus first emerged in late December 2019, 80,778 cases have been detected in China.
The worst affected countries after China are Italy (10,149 cases, 631 deaths), Iran (9,000 cases, 354 deaths), South Korea (7,755 cases, 60 deaths) and France (1,784 cases, 33 deaths).
Spain later reported that its number of infections had passed the 2,000 mark, with 47 deaths, thus overtaking France.
India is also grappling with the outbreak with 67 people tested positive for the virus. The government on Wednesday suspended all visas to India. In an order this evening, the Union health ministry said all existing visas -- diplomatic, official, UN/International organizations, employment, project visas will be suspended till April 15.