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The head of the World Health Organization has urged countries around the world to test every suspected coronavirus case as the number of confirmed infections passed 182,000.
"You cannot fight a fire while blindfolded," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists. "Test, test, test. Test every suspected case."
The virus is spreading rapidly, forcing governments to impose restrictions rarely seen outside wartime — closing borders, ordering home quarantine and scrapping public events including major sporting fixtures.
Tedros said more cases and deaths have now been reported in the rest of the world than in China, where COVID-19 first emerged in December before crisscrossing the globe.
"This is the defining global health crisis of our time," he told reporters. "Crises like this tend to bring out the best and worst of humanity."
More than 182,260 people have been infected by the coronavirus across the world and 7,165 have died, with cases and deaths outside China overtaking those in the country where the outbreak began, according to a Reuters tally published on Tuesday.
Infections outside China have been reported by 161 countries.
There were continuing signs of improvement in China, with only four new COVID-19 cases recorded in Wuhan — where the virus was first detected in December — although imported cases rose.
Europe in lockdown
Governments are scrambling to contain not only the spread of the virus but also the economic fallout, with fears it will catapult the world into recession.
Countries across Europe are on full lockdown, while major US cities have shut bars and restaurants and schools are closing nationwide.
In the latest restrictions in Europe, France imposed a 15-day lockdown on its population while Germany announced border controls, banned gatherings in churches, mosques and synagogues and said playgrounds and non-essential shops would close.
Spain also announced it would seal off its land bordes as the number of cases edged closer to 10,000, while Britain called for an end to all "non-essential" contact and travel, and Switzerland declared a state of emergency.
Italy — the hardest hit nation in Europe — announced another surge in deaths, taking its overall toll to more than 2,000.
Iran, the country with the highest number of infections and deaths in the Middle East, closed four key Shiite pilgrimage sites.
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