The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday raised its global risk assessment of the new coronavirus to its highest level after the epidemic spread to sub-Saharan Africa and financial markets slumped.
The virus has proliferated around the globe over the past week, emerging on every continent except Antarctica, prompting many governments and businesses to try to stop people from travelling or gathering in crowded places.
It has killed more than 2,800 people and infected over 84,000 worldwide -- the vast majority in China -- since it emerged apparently from an animal market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late December.
How Covid-19 spreads
When someone who has the new coronavirus (Covid-19) coughs or exhales they release droplets of infected fluid. Most of these droplets fall on nearby surfaces and objects - such as desks, tables or telephones.
People could catch Covid-19 by touching contaminated surfaces or objects – and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.
If they are standing within one meter of a person with Covid-19 they can catch it by breathing in droplets coughed out or exhaled by them. In other words, Covid-19 spreads in a similar way to flu.
Most persons infected with Covid-19 experience mild symptoms and recover. However, some go on to experience more serious illness and may require hospital care.
Risk of serious illness rises with age: people over 40 seem to be more vulnerable than those under 40.
People with weakened immune systems and people with conditions such as diabetes, heart and lung disease are also more vulnerable to serious illness.
As the coronavirus spreads around the globe, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family. WHO has offered advice that included tips for protecting against catching and spreading the virus.
Keep workplaces clean and hygienic. Surfaces like desks and tables or telephones, keyboards need to be wiped with disinfectant regularly.
Promote regular and thorough handwashing.
Cover mouth and nose with tissue, or sleeve or elbow when coughing of sneezing.
Throw tissue into closed bin after use.
Promote food respiratory hygiene.
Consult national travel advice before going on business travel.
Advise those who are sick to stay at home.
Additional report by AFP