Coronavirus cases surged in Italy, and France closed the Louvre Museum on Sunday as the deadly outbreak that began in China sent fear rising across Western Europe.
The number of countries hit by the virus climbed past 60, and the death toll worldwide reached at least 3000.
Thirty-three nations have reported cases in the past nine days.
New fronts in the crisis opened rapidly over the weekend, deepening the sense of crisis that has already sent financial markets plummeting, emptied the streets in many cities of tourists and workers and rewritten the daily routines of millions of people.
More than 87,000 worldwide have been infected, with the virus appearing on every continent but Antarctica.
Australia and Thailand reported their first deaths on Sunday, while the Dominican Republic and the Czech Republic recorded their first infections.
Italian authorities announced that the number of people infected in the country had surged 40 per cent to 1576 in 24 hours, and five more people had died, bringing the death toll there to 34.
Iran, Iraq and South Korea, among other places, also saw the number of infections rise. Cases in the US climbed to at least 72, with the first death inside the United States reported on Saturday – a man in his 50s in Washington state who had underlying health problems but hadn’t travelled to any affected areas.
Panic-buying of daily necessities emerged in Japan, where professional baseball teams have played spring-training games in deserted stadiums. Tourist sites across Asia, Europe and the Mideast were deserted. Islam’s holiest sites have been closed to foreign pilgrims. And governments have closed schools and banned big gatherings.
In France, the archbishop of Paris told parish priests to put the Communion bread in worshippers’ hands, not in their mouths. French officials advised people to forgo the customary kisses on the cheek upon greeting others. And the Louvre closed after workers who guard the “Mona Lisa” and the rest of its priceless artworks expressed fear of being contaminated by the stream of visitors from around the world.
The Louvre, the world’s most popular museum, got 9.6 million visitors last year, almost three-quarters of them from abroad.
Louvre staffers were also concerned about museum workers from Italy who had come to the museum to collect works by Leonardo da Vinci that were loaned for a major exhibition.
“We are very worried because we have visitors from everywhere,” said Andre Sacristin, a Louvre employee and union representative. “The risk is very, very, very great.” While there are no known infections among the museum’s 2300 workers, “it’s only a question of time,” he said.
The shutdown followed a government decision Saturday to ban indoor public gatherings of more than 5000 people.
Among the frustrated visitors was Charles Lim from Singapore. He and his wife, Jeanette, chose Paris to celebrate their first wedding anniversary and bought tickets in advance for the Louvre.
“We waited for about three hours before giving up,” he said. “It was incredibly disappointing.” 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.