The world has entered uncharted territory in its battle against the deadly coronavirus, the UN health agency warned, as new infections dropped dramatically in China on Tuesday but surged abroad with the US death toll rising to six.
Globally, the virus has killed more than 3,100 people and infected over 90,000 even as a clear shift in the crisis emerges, with nine times as many new cases recorded outside China as inside, according to the WHO.
"We are in uncharted territory," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday.
"We have never before seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission, but which can also be contained with the right measures." Community transmission means infections within a population are not imported from another virus-hit area.
The United States is now facing a potential epidemic, with six people dying in the northwestern state of Washington, where officials warned residents the battle against the disease was shifting from containment to mitigation.
"The risk for all of us of becoming infected will be increasing," said Jeff Duchin, a health officer in Seattle's King County where five of the deaths occurred.
South Korea, Iran, and Italy have emerged as major COVID-19 hotspots, which is believed to have started at a market that sold wild animals in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
With concerns growing about its impact on the global economy, G7 finance ministers and central bank chiefs will hold talks on the issue on Tuesday.