The number of novel coronavirus cases in the world has topped 90,000, World Health Organization chief Tedros Ghebreyesus said Tuesday.

"There is now a total of 90,893 reported cases of COVID-19 globally, and 3,110 deaths," the WHO director general said in a press briefing, referring to the virus by its official name.

Of 1,848 cases reported outside China over the past 48 hours, 80 percent are from three countries: Iran, Italy and South Korea.

The WHO chief also said the pace of the increase in coronavirus cases in China was the slowest since late January.

On Monday, Tedros singled out the epidemics in Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea as the "greatest concern," citing continued increases of new coronavirus cases in the four countries.

In Tuesday's briefing, he emphasized some key differences between the coronavirus and influenza.

"COVID-19 does not transmit as efficiently as influenza, from the data we have so far," Tedros said. "We don't even talk about containment for seasonal flu -- it's just not possible. But it is possible for COVID-19."

He added that transmission does not seem to be driven by people who are infected but not yet sick, and that the virus causes a more severe illness than influenza.

"We understand that people are afraid and uncertain" about the pneumonia-causing disease, the WHO head said. "But as we get more data, we are understanding this virus, and the disease it causes, more and more."

"This is a question of solidarity. This cannot be solved by WHO alone," Tedros added.