Geneva: Europe has become the new epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic as cases in China slow and the deadly coronavirus runs through Italy and nearby countries. Europe has now become the epicentre of a coronavirus pandemic that has claimed 5,000 lives around the world, “a tragic milestone”, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

More than 132,000 cases of the virus have been reported in 123 countries since it emerged in December in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told during a virtual news conference.

“Europe has now become the epicentre of the pandemic with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of world combined apart from China,” he said in Geneva.

WHO officials declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on Wednesday as the virus spreads rapidly across the world from Asia to Europe, the Middle East and now parts of the United States.

US President Donald Trump has announced sweeping travel restrictions to prevent people from 26 European countries - except for Britain and Ireland - from traveling to the United States in a bid to limit the virus spread.

A number of other countries in recent days have announced stepped up border checks, and cancelled flights to other countries mainly to Europe, in an effort to contain the spread.