Italy has sealed off around 16 million people in the region of Lombardy and 14 other provinces in a desperate attempt to contain its coronavirus outbreak, with 1200 new cases and 50 deaths in the nation in 24 hours.
Elsewhere, a cruise ship on Egypt's Nile River with over 150 tourists and local crew is in quarantine as 45 people on board tested positive for the new coronavirus.
It is one of two cruise ships in lockdown including another off the coast of California.
The World Health Organisation has said there are now more than 100,000 people across the globe infected with the Covid-19 strain of coronavirus.
The European nation has locked down the entire northern region of Lombardy and 11 other provinces as the coronavirus crisis spirals out of control.
Italy has seen a massive jump in Covid-19 cases with more than 1200 people confirmed with the virus in just 24 hours.
In the same period, 50 people have succumbed to the disease bringing the death toll to 230. The country is now one of the worst afflicted globally. Only China and Iran have had more deaths.
In contrast France, the European country with the second highest number of deaths, has recorded less than 20 fatalities.
In addition, the leader of Italy's co-ruling Democratic Party (PD) Nicola Zingaretti says he has tested positive for coronavirus, becoming the first senior Italian politician to be infected.
"I have coronavirus too", Zingaretti said in a video posted on Facebook, adding he was well and in self-isolation at home.
Italy has already cordoned off scores of towns and villages to prevent the virus' spread. Health authorities are now considering locking down the entire region of Lombardy.
One of Italy's largest provinces, Lombardy has 10 million inhabitants with the country's second largest city of Milan at its centre.
Anyone leaving or entering Lombardy without authorisation could be fined, according to a new governmental decree.
The new law could see cinemas and schools closed and gatherings banned, even funerals.
Officials announced on Saturday (US time) that New York state's coronavirus caseload is on a steady rise, now up to 76 from the last count of 44. The new number prompted Gov. Andrew Cuomo to declare a state of emergency to bolster the medical response to the outbreak. No one has died from the new virus in the state.
State officials say the state of emergency will clear the way for more testing by allowing qualified professionals other than doctors and nurses to conduct the tests.
More testing that could detect additional cases "is good news because we know who these people are and can put them in isolation," the governor said.
Meanwhile, twenty-one people aboard a mammoth cruise ship off the California coast have tested positive for the new coronavirus, Vice President Mike Pence announced on Friday, including 19 crew members.
Pence said the US federal government was working with California officials on a plan to bring the ship to a non-commercial port this weekend and the 3500 passengers and crew members will be tested for the virus.
"We will be testing everyone on the ship and quarantining as necessary," Pence said. "But with regard to the 1100-member crew, we anticipate that they will be quarantined on the ship."
The ship is carrying 3533 people, including at least three Kiwis and four Australians.
Another cruise ship on Egypt's Nile River carrying 150 tourists and crew was in quarantine on Saturday in the city of Luxor after 12 people tested positive.
In Egypt, a river cruise ship has been placed in lockdown after it emerged a Taiwanese-American tourist, who had previously been on the same ship, tested positive when she returned to Taiwan.
Health authorities first found that a dozen of the ship's Egyptian crew members had contracted the fast-spreading virus, and said they did not show symptoms, according to a joint statement from Egypt's Health Ministry and the WHO on Friday.
At a news conference in Cairo later Saturday, Health Minister Hala Zayed said 33 others tested positive for the virus. Of the total 45 infected passengers and crew, 19 were foreigners, officials said. Zayed did not elaborate on the nationalities of the non-Egyptians.
Officials said the 45 would be transferred to isolation in a hospital on Egypt's north coast. The passengers – who include Americans, French and other nationalities – and the remaining crew remained quarantined on the ship awaiting further test results. The new cases brought to 48 the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Egypt, including 21 foreign nationals and 27 Egyptians.
Amonios Salah, who works as a chef on the ship, told The Associated Press that the crew received an inquiry from the Health Ministry about crew members showing flu-like symptoms.
"Some of us were sick. Some with fever," he said.
China has said about a quarter of newly confirmed cases and almost all of those outside the epidemic's epicentre in Wuhan originated outside the country, according to official data.
Most of these cases, which include infections of Chinese nationals who caught the virus abroad, were in China's northwestern Gansu province, among quarantined passengers who entered the provincial capital of Lanzhou on commercial flights from Iran between March 2 and March 5.
Currently there are more than 100,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus around the world, with 80,651 in China, 7041 in South Korea, 4747 in Iran and 4636 in Italy.
In addition to the growing risks of imported infections, China's antivirus efforts also face the challenge of trying to get migrant workers back to work by early April.
So far, 78 million migrant workers, or 60 per cent of the total who left for the Lunar New Year holiday, have returned.
"I must stress that we're still at a critical juncture in terms of epidemic prevention and control," said Yang Wenzhuang, an official of China's National Health Commission.
"The risk of contagion from increased population flows and gathering is increasing … We must not relax or lower the bar for virus control." Mainland China had 99 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on Friday, NHC said on Saturday, down from 143 cases a day earlier and marking the lowest number since January 20, when the NHC started to publish nationwide figures.
The central province of Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak, reported 28 new deaths. In the provincial capital of Wuhan, 21 people died.
Outside of central China's Hubei province, there were 25 new confirmed cases reported on March 6, of which 24 came from outside China.
The capital Beijing reported four new cases on Friday, of which three came from Italy, according to a notice from the Beijing health commission posted on its official Weibo account on Saturday.
The fourth was a case of a recovered patient testing positive again. There were also three cases in Shanghai that originated abroad, and one in Guangdong province on Friday, according to the National Health Commission. The total nationwide number of cases that originated outside China reached 60 as of the end of Friday.
For the second day in a row, there were no new infections in Hubei outside of the provincial capital of Wuhan, where new cases fell to the lowest level since January 25.
An Iranian politician has died from coronavirus, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reports, in an another sign the disease is spreading within state institutions.
Iran is one of the countries outside China most affected by the epidemic. As of Friday, the country had reported 4747 infections.
The politician, 55-year-old Fatemeh Rahabar, was recently elected to serve in the incoming parliament that begins work in May.
Earlier this week, Iranian politician Abdolreza Mesri told state television that 23 members of the current parliament had the coronavirus and he urged all politicians to avoid the public.
On March 2, Tasnim reported the death of Mohammad Mirmohammadi, a member of the Expediency Council, intended to resolve disputes between parliament and the Guardian Council, a governmental body that vets electoral candidates among other duties.
Iran's deputy health minister, Iraj Harirchi, and another member of parliament, Mahmoud Sadeghi, have also said they have contracted the virus.
- Additional reporting, AP