Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was addressing the 2nd Riyadh International Humanitarian Forum on Sunday
The director general of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for calm as the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the globe.
Current figures show there are almost 87,000 cases of coronavirus across 64 countries, with almost 3,000 deaths recorded so far.
In the Middle East, that figure stands at 728, with 43 deaths, all in Iran.
Addressing the 2nd Riyadh International Humanitarian Forum on Sunday, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “What we need now is, without panic and fear, to focus and do the right thing.
“We need to go into the numbers, we need to go into the facts, and do the right thing instead of panicking. Panic and fear is the worst.”
Global stocks slumped on Friday, marking the largest weekly drop since the 2008 global financial crisis, as concerns grew that the virus spread could wreak havoc on the world economy.
Crude oil prices tumbled as well and analysts said central banks, especially the US Federal Reserve, might have to shift into crisis-resolution mode with urgent interest rate cuts.
However, Ghebreyesus stressed that there should be a measured response to the outbreak from the business world.
“Global markets… should calm down and try to see the reality. We need to continue to be rational. Irrationality doesn’t help. We need to deal with the facts,” he added.
Ghebreyesus admitted that the WHO, which has raised the global risk assessment level to “very high”, is currently operating on a worst case scenario.
He said: “Based on the facts on the ground, containment is possible. But the window of opportunity for containing it is narrowing. So we need to be preparing side by side for a pandemic.
“Containment works, but at the same time we cannot be sure. The thing could change direction and be worse. That’s why we prepare for the worst.”
The forum is an initiative of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, which was founded in 2015 and has invested nearly $4 billion in philanthropic projects in 44 countries.