Geneva: The head of the World Health Organization on Wednesday said the new coronavirus was an "enemy against humanity", as the number of people infected in the pandemic soared past 200,000.
"This coronavirus is presenting us with an unprecedented threat," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists in a virtual news conference, stressing that it was "an unprecedented opportunity to come together as one against a common enemy: an enemy against humanity."
Worldwide fatalities topped 8,000 and more deaths have now been recorded in Europe, the new virus epicentre, than in Asia since the outbreak first emerged in China in December.
Tedros said the WHO was speaking daily with health ministers, heads of state, health workers, hospital managers, industry leaders and others "to help them prepare and prioritise."
"Don't assume your community won't be affected. Prepare as if it will be," he said.
The WHO has called for every single suspected case to be tested.
In countries where that was not possible due to soaring numbers of cases, Tedros insisted there were measures that could be taken to reduce the burden on healthcare systems and make epidemics more "manageable".
"There is hope. There are many things all countries can do," he said.
He urged states to introduce physical distancing measures, including cancelling sporting events, concerts and other large gatherings, to slow down transmission.
But Tedros added that the only way to suppress and control epidemics of the virus was for countries to "isolate, test, treat and trace."
If countries fail to do that, he said, "transmission chains can continue at a low level, then resurge once physical distancing measures are lifted."
Tedros meanwhile hailed that the first vaccine trial had already begun just two months after China shared the genetic sequence of the virus, calling it "an incredible achievement."
He also said WHO was launching a "solidarity trial" of five proposed treatments for the virus across 10 countries in a bid to figure out which was most effective.
But an actual roll-out of a vaccine remains far off.
He called on all countries to use a "comprehensive approach, with the aim of slowing down transmission and flattening the curve.
"This approach is saving lives and buying time for the development of vaccines and treatments."