Around 500 million people across the European Union could go into temporary lockdown under a 30-day ban on people entering the 27 member bloc, the European Commission President has proposed.

European Commission leader Ursula von der Leyen spoke on Monday to propose a 30-day ban on anyone entering the EU unless their travel is essential.

"I propose to the heads of states and government to introduce temporary restrictions on non-essential travel to the European Union."

"The less travel, the more we can contain the virus," she said in a video message.

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Those who are long-term residents or the family of EU citizens would be exempt from the ban, and transport workers could also be allowed to move to keep goods flowing.

"We have to take exceptional measures to protect the health of our citizens. But let's make sure goods and essential services continue to flow in our internal market. This is the only way to prevent shortages of medical equipment or food," she said.

Europe has now become the global centre of the Covid-19 outbreak with Spain surpassing South Korea to become the fourth most virus-infected country in the world after cases rose by 1000 in 24 hours to reach 9,191 on Monday.

The army was deployed to clean streets and stations, with 46 million people told to stay at home and private hospitals taken over by the government. About half of the deaths have been in the capital, Madrid, and the border with Portugal has been closed.

A woman with a protective mask rides her bike in Paris. Photo / AP
A woman with a protective mask rides her bike in Paris. Photo / AP
Women wear face masks at the Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport, north of Paris. Photo / AP
Women wear face masks at the Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport, north of Paris. Photo / AP

France is expected to outline harsher measures on Monday evening (local time) to contain the virus. In the UK, "COVIDwalkout" was trending online as many fumed over the government's "herd immunity" tactic that has seen schools, restaurants and bars remain open.

Italy on Sunday reported its biggest day-to-day increase in infections – 3,590 more cases – for a total of 24,747. With 1,809 virus-related deaths, the country is responsible for more than a quarter of the global death toll.

The Netherlands has recorded its biggest daily jump in infections with 278 new cases confirmed in the last 24 hours. The new cases reported Monday brought the country's total to 1,413. The Dutch public health institute said four more people also died of COVID-19, bringing the national death toll to 24.

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The government on Sunday ordered all schools, bars, restaurants, sports clubs and sex clubs closed until April 6. The closures also affected the country's famed marijuana-selling coffee shops, sparking panic buying of pot before the coffee shops closed Sunday evening.

A passenger wearing a protective mask walks along a passageway at a train station in Barcelona, Spain. Photo / AP
A passenger wearing a protective mask walks along a passageway at a train station in Barcelona, Spain. Photo / AP

Germany has also moved to close non-essential shops, bars, museums and other facilities.

The Covid-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms but most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or people with existing health problems.

More than 77,000 people have recovered from it so far, mostly in China.

US WARNED: WE COULD BE ITALY

The US surgeon general said Monday that the number of coronavirus cases in the United States has reached the level that Italy recorded two weeks ago, a sign that infections are expected to rise in America as the government steps up testing and financial markets continue to fall.

"We are at a critical inflection point in this country, people," Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams told Fox News.

"When you look at the projections, there's every chance that we could be Italy."

Two weeks ago, Italy had 1,700 cases of coronavirus and had reported 34 deaths.

Now, Italy is reporting an estimated 25,000 cases and more than 1,800 deaths. About 3,800 cases have been reported in the United States and so far, more than 65 people have died from coronavirus.