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Germany heading for coronavirus epidemic, new infections outside China overtake inside
German authorities say the nation is heading for a coronavirus epidemic and can no longer trace all cases, as the number of new infections inside China was for the first time overtaken by those elsewhere, worrying scientists.
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US health authorities, managing 59 cases so far, have said a global pandemic is likely.
However, US President Donald Trump accused two cable TV channels that frequently criticise him of "doing everything possible to make (the coronavirus) look as bad as possible, including panicking markets".
The disease has infected about 80,000 people and killed more than 2700, the vast majority in China.
While radical quarantining measures have helped slow the rate of transmission in China, elsewhere it is accelerating.
Germany, which has around 20 cases, said it was already impossible to trace all chains of infection, and Health Minister Jens Spahn urged regional authorities, hospitals and employers to review their pandemic planning.
"Large numbers of people have had contact with the patients, and that is a big change to the 16 patients we had until now where the chain could be traced back to the origin in China," he said.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had also spoken on Tuesday of a nascent pandemic.
"It's not a question of 'if'. It's a question of 'when' and how many people will be infected," its principal deputy director Anne Schuchat said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said China reported 411 new cases on Tuesday - against the 427 logged in 37 other countries.
However, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus advised diplomats in Geneva on Wednesday against speaking of a pandemic.
"Using the word pandemic carelessly has no tangible benefit, but it does have significant risk in terms of amplifying unnecessary and unjustified fear and stigma, and paralysing systems," he said.
"It may also signal that we can no longer contain the virus, which is not true."
China's National Health Commission reported 406 new infections on Wednesday, down from 508 a day earlier and bringing the total confirmed cases in mainland China to 78,064.
Its death toll rose by 52 to 2715.
The WHO said only 10 new cases were reported in China on Tuesday outside Hubei.
South Korea, which with 1261 cases has the most outside China, reported 284 new ones including a US soldier.
Brazil reported the first case in Latin America, a source said on Wednesday - a 61-year-old who had visited Italy.
"The sudden increases of cases in Italy, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Korea are deeply concerning," said Ghebreyesus.
And Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for sports and cultural events to be scrapped or curtailed for two weeks to stem the virus as concern mounted for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.