In the space of just one week, 30 countries – making up nearly half of all affected countries, reported their first cases of coronavirus.
It’s a worsening scenario the World Health Organisation feared the most.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus repeatedly warned for several weeks – with the world watching on as the virus brought parts of China to a standstill – nations must take immediate action to safeguard their countries from the virus he described as a “grave threat” to the rest of the world, particularly undeveloped countries.
In February, he warned a spike in cases in Europe could be “the spark that becomes a bigger fire”.
Nearly three weeks later, the number of new daily confirmed cases outside of China have rocketed beyond cases within the first country to suffer a widespread outbreak.
Australia, the US and Thailand have all announced their first deaths from the virus.
By Monday, countries and territories with confirmed cases surged to 67 – including a series of European countries including Ireland and Czech Republic.
The death toll has since surpassed 3000.
A daunting map released by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention shows the global spread of the virus.
While many have called for WHO to declare a pandemic, Professor Mary Louise McLaws, an infection control expert at UNSW and a WHO advisor, told Yahoo News Australia on Friday that there are “very specific requirements for something to be called a pandemic” and it was too early at this stage.
Drastic action amid coronavirus fears
The rapid spread of the virus has sparked fear among every continent bar Antarctica.
New fronts in the battle opened rapidly over the weekend, deepening the sense of crisis that has already sent financial markets plummeting, emptied the streets in many cities and rewritten the routines of millions of people.
Italian authorities announced that the number of people infected in the country soared 50 per cent to 1,694 in just 24 hours, and five more had died, bringing the death toll there to 34.
France raised its number of reported cases to 130, an increase of 30 from the day before, and said it has seen two deaths.
The world famous Louvre museum, which homes the Mona Lisa, shut its doors as staff feared transmission from the wave of daily international visitors.
Hefty travel restrictions and fears of coronavirus have ravaged economies and tourism, particularly European countries ahead of Easter – a popular travel period.
The US government advised Americans against traveling to the two northern Italian regions hit hardest, among them Lombardy, which includes Milan.
Major American airlines began suspending flights to Milan.
“We had already registered a slowdown of Americans coming to Italy in recent days,” Bernabo Bocca, president of Italy's hotel association, said in a statement on Saturday.
“Now, the final blow has arrived.”
Tourism accounts for 13 per cent of the economy in Italy, with its world-class art museums, archaeological sites and architectural treasures.
More than 5.6 million Americans visit Italy every year, representing 9 per cent of foreign tourists.
Coronavirus cases continue to rise globally
Iran, Iraq and South Korea, among other places, also saw the number of infections rise.
Cases in the US climbed to at least 74 with the first death in the United States reported on Saturday — a man in his 50s in Washington state who had underlying health problems but hadn’t traveled to any affected areas.
Australia’s confirmed cases rose to 28 after the death of 78-year-old James Kwan, who is the first Australian to die from the virus.
Panic-buying of daily necessities has emerged in several countries, including Australia, where supermarket shelves have been stripped bare of essentials.
In Japan, professional baseball teams have played spring-training games in deserted stadiums while a series of sporting fixtures in Italy have been cancelled.
Tourist attractions across Asia, Europe and the Mideast were deserted. Islam's holiest sites have been closed to foreign pilgrims. And governments have closed schools and banned big gatherings.
The United Nations said Sunday it is releasing $15 million from an emergency fund to help countries with fragile health systems contain the virus.
“We must act now to stop this virus from putting more lives at risk,” UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said.
“[The aid] has the potential to save the lives of millions of vulnerable people.”
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