China's Shanghai Composite index plunged 8.7 per cent as financial markets reopened Monday amid news the outbreak of a deadly virus has spread further.
Other markets also fell sharply, with Taiwan's benchmark down 2.8 per cent. The declines followed a day of bloodletting on Wall Street.
• NZ shares hit by coronavirus fallout
Japan's Nikkei 225 index lost 1 per cent to 22,971.13, while the S&P ASX/200 declined 1.6 per cent to 6,902.10. In South Korea, the Kospi declined 0.6 per cent to 2,105.46. Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 0.3 per cent to 26,370.78.
"Sentiments remain very fragile as markets dynamically try to get a sense of when containment will catch up with contagion," Mizuho Bank said in a commentary.
The Australian share market also plunged at the opening of trade this morning.
The local benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 94.6 points, or 1.35 per cent, at 6922.6 at 1030.
The market had lost nearly AU$40 billion (NZ$41.5b) in the first 15 minutes of trade, with the energy sector the hardest hit, down 3.5 per cent when the gauge was taken after 30 minutes of trading.
The death toll from the coronavirus epidemic rose to 304 on Sunday as countries began to tighten the movement of travellers who had visited the epicentre of the outbreak in China's Hubei province.
• Coronavirus: Customs closes eGates; China travellers blocked
• Coronavirus: NZ Government to block travellers from mainland China, as details of recovery mission revealed
• Lancet paper says coronavirus mortality rate could be as high as 11 per cent
• China detects outbreak of bird flu near epicentre of deadly coronavirus
This escalation of the spread of the deadly virus has led to investors pulling back and retreating to safe haven industries and shares such as gold miners, Bell Direct market analyst Jessica Amir said.
"There's a lot of uncertainty with the coronavirus with the death toll rising but we do have to bear in mind that more people have died of the common cold," she told news.com.au.
"So this is really panic selling."
This development combined with negative expectations for the region — mainly Goldman Sachs predicting China's GDP to fall — has compounded economic growth sentiment.
Oil prices are lower again on mounting worries about the economic damage to flow from the fast-spreading virus. Australian Gas and oil producer Oil Search's shares were down more than 7.5 per cent at $6.69 at 10.30.
Big miners were also down, with Fortescue Metals Group losing 36 cents, or 3.16 per cent, to $11.03.
Travel shares were pummelled again. Qantas lost 14 cents, or 2.18 per cent, to $6.72 and Flight Centre was down 97 cents, or 2.47 per cent, at $38.34.
Gold miners surged as demand for the precious metal keeps rising based on investors retreating for safe haven assets.
Newcrest was up 41.5 cents, or 1.41 per cent, at $29.94.
The Australian dollar was buying 66.93 US cents, down from 67.19 US as the market closed on Friday.
- Addirional reporting AP