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A tourist wearing a medical facemask in Venice, Italy. Photo: Andrea Pattaro/AFP via Getty Images

The number of new cases of the novel coronavirus reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time, the World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a briefing on Wednesday.

Details: Tedros called the sudden increase in cases in South Korea (1,595), Italy (453) and Iran (141) "deeply concerning."

The big picture: Some 20 countries have reported their first cases in the past week, many in Europe — including Spain, Greece, Croatia, North Macedonia, Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Denmark, Romania and Estonia.

  • The first cases in the Middle East include Israel, Lebanon, Oman, Afghanistan, Bahrain and Kuwait.
  • Georgia, at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, has also reported its first case, as has Pakistan and Algeria.
  • Brazil became the first place in South America to confirm an infection. The virus spread to Brazil by a 61-year-old man who traveled from Italy, the epicenter of Europe's outbreak. The country is tracking 20 suspected virus cases.
  • Tedros noted that new cases in Algeria, Austria, Croatia, Germany, Spain and Switzerland were also linked to Italy, while infections in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Oman had connections with Iran.

What they're saying: Germany's health minister said Thursday the country was "at the beginning of an epidemic," per AP, as cases surged to 27.

  • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a news conference his country was preparing for a pandemic, as 23 cases were confirmed.
  • "The risk of a global pandemic is very much upon us," he said.

Yes, but: The WHO has yet to declare the outbreak a pandemic.

  • "Using the word pandemic carelessly has no tangible benefit, but it does have significant risk in terms of amplifying unnecessary and unjustified fear and stigma, and paralyzing systems," Tedros said.
  • "It may also signal that we can no longer contain the virus, which is not true. We are in a fight that can be won if we do the right things."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 17 mins ago - World

Mexican President López Obrador tests positive for coronavirus

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during a press conference at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, on Wednesday. Photo: Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Sunday evening that he's tested positive for COVID-19.

Driving the news: López Obrador tweeted that he has mild symptoms and is receiving medical treatment. "As always, I am optimistic," he added. "We will all move forward."

33 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor of Arkansas

Sarah Huckabee Sanders at FOX News' studios in New York City in 2019. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will announce Monday that she's running for governor of Arkansas.

The big picture: Sanders was touted as a contender after it was announced she was leaving the Trump administration in June 2019. Then-President Trump tweeted he hoped she would run for governor, adding "she would be fantastic." Sanders is "seen as leader in the polls" in the Republican state, notes the Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, who first reported the news.

Coronavirus has inflamed global inequality

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

History will likely remember the pandemic as the "first time since records began that inequality rose in virtually every country on earth at the same time." That's the verdict from Oxfam's inequality report covering the year 2020 — a terrible year that hit the poorest, hardest across the planet.

Why it matters: The world's poorest were already in a race against time, facing down an existential risk in the form of global climate change. The coronavirus pandemic could set global poverty reduction back as much as a full decade, according to the World Bank.