WHO says coronavirus is not a pandemic

(MGN Image)

(NBC) The World Health Organization on Tuesday said the fast-spreading and deadly coronavirus is not a pandemic, which is an epidemic of worldwide proportions.

But instead an "epidemic" with "multiple foci" -- meaning it's mostly centered in one country, with just a few outlying clusters in other areas, and countries.

The WHO also says there's no evidence to suggest the virus is mutating and facemasks alone will not halt its transmission.

Sylvie Briand is the Director of Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness At WHO. She says, "Currently we are not in a pandemic. We are at the phase where it's an epidemic with multiple foci and we will try to extinguish the transmission in each of these foci."

Briand added, "I think to stop transmission of this virus it's very important that sick people wear masks. That's for clear. Then in terms of risk, again, I've said that for people who have no symptoms the mask will not necessarily protect them 100 percent because if they don't apply other measures it's not sufficient so my message is more that masks alone are not enough, it's a package of measures that you have to put in place and if people use the entire package that's fine, if they just use the masks I think it's not enough."

Hong Kong reported its first coronavirus death on Tuesday, the second outside mainland China from the fast-spreading outbreak that has killed 427 people.

Hong Kong's first fatality was a 39-year-old man with an underlying illness who had visited China's Wuhan City, the epicentre of the outbreak, hospital staff said.

Total infections in mainland China rose to 20,438, and there have been nearly 200 cases elsewhere across 24 countries and China's special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau.