The World Health Organisation has declared the official name for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus will be Covid-2019.

"We now have a name for the #2019nCoV disease: COVID-19." said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in an announcement on Twitter.

"I'll spell it: C-O-V-I-D hyphen one nine – COVID-19."

Ghebreyesus earlier issued a new "grave" warning about the coronavirus, as authorities in Hong Kong evacuate 100 people from an apartment block amid fears the virus could spread through drainage pipes.

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Personnel wearing protective suits wait near an entrance at the Cheung Hong Estate, a public housing estate during evacuation of residents in Hong Kong. AP Photo / Kin Cheung
Personnel wearing protective suits wait near an entrance at the Cheung Hong Estate, a public housing estate during evacuation of residents in Hong Kong. AP Photo / Kin Cheung

"With 99 per cent of cases in China, this remains very much an emergency for that country, but one that holds a very grave threat for the rest of the world," WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said as he opened the latest conference on the virus in Geneva, Switzerland.

"What matters most is stopping the outbreak and saving lives. With your support, that's what we can do together," Dr Tedros said.

The virus, first identified in China on December 31, has killed more than 1000 people, infected over 42,000 and reached some 25 countries.

Hong Kong is on high alert for any potential "super-spreader" events, especially in the towering housing blocks that make the city one of the world's most densely populated places.

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During the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed 299 people in Hong Kong, 42 deaths came from just one housing block where about 300 people were infected.