His comments came as several countries in Europe reported steep rises in the number of infections and deaths. Spain is now the worst affected after Italy. On Friday, Spain reported a 50 per cent jump in fatalities to 120. Infections increased to 4,200, BBC reported.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries to use aggressive measures, community mobilisation and social distancing to save lives. “Do not just let this fire burn,” he said.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said a state of emergency will come into effect there on Saturday for two weeks.
More than 132,500 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in 123 countries around the world, according to the WHO.
The total number of deaths has reached about 5,000 – a figure Ghebreyesus described as “a tragic milestone”.
“Europe has now become the epicentre of the pandemic, with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China,” he said.
“More cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic.”
Europe’s worst-affected country, Italy, has now reported more than 15,100 cases and 1,000 deaths. France has 2,860 cases, Germany 2,369 and there are now 798 confirmed infections in the UK.