World Health Organization says risk of coronavirus spread is 'very high at a global level'

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(CNN) – The coronavirus outbreak has reached the “highest level” of risk for the world, the World Health Organization announced Saturday.

“This thing can go in any direction. We’re not undermining the risk, it’s there. That’s why today we said the global risk is very high. We increased it from high to very high,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, said during a press briefing in Geneva on Friday.

Remember: That risk assessment makes no “legal difference” in how countries should prepare for the outbreak, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said during today's press briefing.

Rather, “raising the risk to very high is essentially reflecting what’s actually happening at a global level,” Ryan said, adding that this is a “reality check” for governments to prepare.

“We are on the highest level of alert, on the highest level of risk assessment in terms of spread and in terms of impact, but that is not in order to alarm or scare people,” Ryan said. “We can avoid the worst of this but our level of concern is at its highest.”

This story was first published on CNN.com "CNN.com"