The global aviation sector was immediately affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Airports Council International (ACI) said on Wednesday.

"World’s monthly global traffic statistics for January show the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak had a rapid effect on passenger traffic, particularly in Asia-Pacific," it said in a press release.

The world's air passenger traffic posted a 1.9% growth in January annually, while it rose 4.9% in the previous month, the ACI, a non-profit organization representing the world's airports, noted.

It added: "The industry’s 12-month rolling average reached +2.9%, temporarily propped up by the middling growth observed in 2019."

It also said the Asia-Pacific region recorded 1.8% decline in January due to a shape dropping in its domestic air traffic by 3.6%.

The freight industry narrowed 4.4% in the first month of 2020 versus January 2019, it said.

“These figures show that the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on aviation was rapid, especially in the Asia-Pacific region,” Angela Gittens, the head of the ACI, said.

After first appearing in Wuhan, China last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 171 countries and territories. The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a pandemic.

The number of confirmed cases worldwide has now surpassed 438,500 while the death toll is over 19,500 and more than 111,500 have recovered.

Despite the rising number of cases, most who contract the virus suffer only mild symptoms before making a recovery.