Virus spreads to more than 60 countries

Foster Klug
The Louvre Museum in Paris has closed as workers sought to avoid contact with tourists

Coronavirus cases have surged in Italy while France has closed the Louvre Museum as the number of countries hit by the coronavirus climbed past 60.

Italian authorities have announced the number of people infected with coronavirus in the country soared 50 per cent to 1694 in 24 hours.

Another five infected people in Italy have died, bringing the number of deaths there to 34.

France raised its number of reported cases to 130, an increase of 30 from the day before, and said there had been two deaths from the virus.

It came as the archbishop of Paris told parish priests to put the Communion bread in worshippers' hands, not in their mouths.

And the Louvre closed after workers who guard the Mona Lisa and other priceless artworks expressed fear of being contaminated by the stream of visitors from around the world.

Panic-buying of daily necessities emerged in Japan. Tourist sites across Asia, Europe and the Middle East were deserted, while governments closed schools and banned big gatherings.

Australia and Thailand reported their first deaths on Sunday, while the Dominican Republic and the Czech Republic recorded their first cases.

Iran, Iraq and South Korea, among other places, saw the number of infections rise.

More than 87,000 people worldwide have been infected, and nearly 3000 have died as a result of the virus.

The US on Saturday recorded its first death, a man in his 50s in Washington state who had underlying health problems but who hadn't travelled to any affected areas.

"Additional cases in the United States are likely, but healthy individuals should be able to fully recover," US President Donald Trump said at a Saturday briefing.

China, where the outbreak began two months ago, on Sunday reported a slight uptick in new cases over the past 24 hours to 573, the first time in five days that the number exceeded 500.

They remain almost entirely confined to the hardest-hit province of Hubei and its capital, Wuhan.

South Korea reported 210 additional cases and two more deaths from the virus, raising its totals to 3736 cases and 20 fatalities.

South Korea has the second-largest number of infections outside China, with most of the cases in the southeast city of Daegu and nearby areas.

South Korea's president used a speech marking the 101st anniversary of an anti-Japanese independence uprising to call for national unity to overcome the crisis.

Iran's death toll from COVID-19 climbed to 54 as the number of confirmed cases jumped overnight by more than half, to 978 people.

The new figures represent 11 more deaths than reported on Saturday and 385 new cases.

Iraq's Health Ministry announced the discovery of six more cases on Sunday, raising the total to 19 - all Iran-linked.

Many cases of the virus have been relatively mild, and some of those infected apparently show no symptoms at all. That can allow for easier spread.

Stocks have been sent plummeting, with Wall Street suffering its worst week since the the 2008 financial crisis.

In the Czech Republic, three cases were reported, including a US citizen who had been studying in Milan and had travelled to the Czech Republic on a tourist trip.

British health authorities said the number of people confirmed as infected rose by 12, bringing the country's tally to 35, with one death.