The World Health Organization has upgraded the global risk from the novel coronavirus to "very high" as the virus continued to spread.

"The continued increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, and the number of affected countries over the last few days, are clearly of concern," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Friday.

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"Our epidemiologists have been monitoring these developments continuously, and we have now increased our assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of impact of COVID-19 to very high at a global level," he said.

WHO experts say they "see at the moment linked epidemics of COVID-19 in several countries, but most cases can still be traced to known contacts or clusters of cases. We do not see evidence as yet that the virus is spreading freely in communities."

As UNIAN reported earlier, the Chinese authorities reported an outbreak of pneumonia of unknown origin in Wuhan late in December 2019.

The causative agent of the disease was a new type of coronavirus, COVID-19. The virus is transmitted from person to person, with the incubation period lasting at least two weeks.

On January 30, the World Health Organization declared an international emergency over the spread of the novel coronavirus from China.

"In the past 24 hours, China reported 329 COVID-19 cases – the lowest in over a month,"  the WHO said on February 28. "As of 6 a.m. GVA time this morning, China had reported a total of 78,959 cases to WHO, including 2,791 deaths. Outside, there are now 4,351 cases in 49 countries and 67 deaths."