“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.
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: