Coronavirus news – live: World ‘at a decisive point’ as WHO warns leaders to act quickly after outbreak spreads to more countries

Samuel Osborne, Jon Sharman, Andy Gregory

Coronavirus’ spread has reached a “decisive point”, the World Health Organisation chief has said, as he urged governments to take “aggressive” action to prevent it.

“Every country must be ready for its first case, its first cluster, the first evidence of community transmission and for dealing with sustained community transmission. And it must be preparing for all of those scenarios at the same time,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

It follows a warning from Australia’s Scott Morrison said that “there is every indication the world will soon enter a pandemic phase”. More than 2,800 people have now been killed by the virus around the globe, and more than 82,000 infected – including Iran’s vice-president Masoumeh Ebtekar.

In the UK, where 16 people have tested positive, the NHS fears that its weakest patients could be denied lifesaving care if the virus overwhelms hospitals.

As Northern Ireland announced its first case, the UK’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty warned the country should prepare to pay a heavy “social cost” in order to stop the virus’s spread. Schools may have to close for more than two months if a global pandemic hits, he said, also warning of widespread cancellations of sporting events and concerts.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has banned foreigners from entering – including religious pilgrims hoping to visit Mecca, Islam’s holiest site – and Japan has logged its first case of a patient who had previously recovered testing positive for a second time.

Here's how The Independent reported events as they unfolded: