Coronavirus cases spread across the globe

Fears of a pandemic rose on Saturday (February 29) as coronavirus cases spread to new countries and death tolls jumped.

Europe's worst outbreak remains in Italy, with officials saying several more people died on Saturday -- bringing their total number of fatalities to at least 21.

Also on Saturday, Qatar reported its first case of coronavirus - a man who had recently returned from Iran.

The Islamic Republic is the Gulf's most affected country, with authorities announcing over 40 dead-- the highest number outside of China.

Saudi Arabia is currently the only state in the region to have not reported any coronavirus cases.

The outbreak has sent governments around the globe into frenzied attempts to contain the spread - whether they have cases or not.

Australia said on Saturday (February 29) it would deny entry to all foreign nationals traveling from Iran.

Russia temporarily barred Iranians from entering the country and said it would also restrict entry to South Koreans from March 1.

South Korea has the largest number of infections outside of China and reported its biggest daily increase of cases on Saturday (February 29), with the total number of infections surpassing 3,000.

Meanwhile the UK's total number of infections rose to 23 on Saturday.

The rapid spread has crashed world stock markets and prompted the The World Health Organization to raise the highest level of alarm, saying on Friday (February 28) that the risk of global spread was now "very high"

(SOUNDBITE) (English) WHO DIRECTOR-GENERAL TEDROS GHEBREYESUS SAYING:

"Our epidemiologists have been monitoring these developments continuously and we have now increased our assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of impact of COVID-19 to very high at global level."

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for public cooperation on Saturday (February 29) as his country prepares to hold the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer.

Japan has seen more than 940 cases of infection and Abe has already called for all schools to be closed for more than a month.

Meanwhile mainland China -- the epicenter of the outbreak -- reported four new cases on Saturday, the lowest number since authorities first started compiling data.