The global number of coronavirus cases crossed 16 million on Sunday, according to renowned resource centre Johns Hopkins University and AFP tallies.

The pandemic has killed more than 645,715 people worldwide since it surfaced in China late last year.

The United States is the worst hit country with the highest infection rate, registering 4,178,021 infections and 146,460 dead.

Brazil has the second highest rate of infection, with 2.3 million cases while India places third, with 1.3 million.

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President Donald Trump wears a face mask during a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre. The United States is the worst hit country with the highest infection rate. Photo / AP
President Donald Trump wears a face mask during a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre. The United States is the worst hit country with the highest infection rate. Photo / AP

Latin America and the Caribbean have recorded 4,328,915 cases and 182,501 dead followed by Europe on 3,052,108 cases and 207,734 dead. Figures remained worryingly high in South Africa after confirming more than 12,000 new coronavirus cases. The total in the country has reached more than 434,000 and 6655 deaths.

Meanwhile, Australia suffered its deadliest day since the pandemic began, with 10 fatalities and a rise in new infections despite an intense lockdown effort.

State Premier Daniel Andrews said the deaths included seven men and three women. A man in his 40s became one of the youngest Covid-19 fatalities in Australia.

The spread of the pandemic continues to accelerate and more than five million cases — nearly a third — have been declared since July, which represents a third of the total number of cases since the pandemic began.

The World Health Organisation says more than a million cases had been recorded in each of the past five weeks while experts say the number is likely much higher than those reported.

There were more than 280,000 new cases recorded globally on both Thursday and Friday last week, the highest daily rises since the virus emerged in China late last year, according to an AFP count based on official sources - an alarming uptick in the spread of the virus.

Women wearing face masks watch a mobile phone at the Gyeongbok Palace, in Seoul, South Korea. On Saturday, the country reported its highest infections figure in nearly four months. Photo / AP
Women wearing face masks watch a mobile phone at the Gyeongbok Palace, in Seoul, South Korea. On Saturday, the country reported its highest infections figure in nearly four months. Photo / AP

"While no country is unaffected, this rise is driven by high transmission in large and populous countries in the Americas and South Asia," WHO said in a statement on Saturday.

North Korea declared its first suspected coronavirus case on Sunday, becoming one of the last countries to do so as the number of people infected worldwide passed 16 million.

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The isolated, impoverished state had until now insisted it had not detected a single Covid-19 case - even as the pandemic swept the planet, overwhelming health systems and trashing the global economy.

"The vicious virus could be said to have entered the country," leader Kim Jong-un said, according to the official KCNA news agency.

Africa now has more than 828,000 cases. The true number of cases on the continent of 1.3 billion people is unknown because of testing shortages and insufficient data.

The World Health Organisation has said more than 10,000 health workers in Africa have been infected, many of them nurses, further challenging efforts to contain the virus spread.

The country with the highest number of deaths compared to its population is Belgium with 85 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Britain with 67, Spain 61, Italy 58, and Sweden 56.

Belgium's PM Sophie Wilmes removes her face mask as she prepares to make a statement in Brussels. Belgium is the country with the highest number of deaths compared to its population. Photo / AP
Belgium's PM Sophie Wilmes removes her face mask as she prepares to make a statement in Brussels. Belgium is the country with the highest number of deaths compared to its population. Photo / AP

The spiralling numbers are particularly worrying because the tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the WHO, probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections.

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Many countries are testing only symptomatic or the most serious cases while others still have limited testing capacity.

As governments worldwide struggle to contain the virus despite long and economically crippling lockdowns imposed on millions of people, a new survey suggested that faith in authorities is dwindling in six rich nations.

Populations in France, Germany, Britain, Japan, Sweden and the US widely believed death and infection figures to be higher than recorded, according to the study, which polled 1000 people in each nation.

A boy wearing a face mask as his mother sells traditional medicinal herbs used for the treatment of respiratory illnesses in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Photo / AP
A boy wearing a face mask as his mother sells traditional medicinal herbs used for the treatment of respiratory illnesses in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Photo / AP

"In most countries this month, support for national governments is falling," said the report by the Kekst CNC communications consultancy.

Fresh clusters, meanwhile, were emerging across Asia.

South Korea on Saturday reported its highest infections figure in nearly four months, while Vietnam recorded its first locally transmitted case in nearly 100 days.

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Officials in China said they would introduce fresh measures and testing in the port city of Dalian, home to about six million people, after detecting fresh infections there.