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."

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