GERMANY warned it is at the "beginning of an epidemic" last night as coronavirus spread to every continent except Antarctica.
New cases emerged in Denmark, Estonia, Romania, Pakistan and Brazil - the first in South America - as experts feared they are losing the battle to contain the outbreak.
For the first time on Wednesday, the number of new cases in China was eclipsed by new cases elsewhere in the world.
Many of those were in the world's three new virus hot spots - Italy, South Korea and Iran.
South Korea now has around 1,600 patients after an outbreak linked to a secretive cult.
In Italy, the number of Covid-19 infections has exploded from three last Friday to almost 500 today, with 12 deaths.
Germany saw a 50 per cent leap in cases since yesterday, taking the total to 27. Two patients are said to be critically ill.
Dozens more are being tested after contact with an infected couple in the west of the country, including a kindergarten teacher.
Health minister Jens Spahn said: "We are at the beginning of a coronavirus epidemic in Germany."
He warned authorities were losing track of the source of infections, which could no longer be traced back to China.
The minister said: “The infection chains are partially no longer trackable, and that is a new thing.
“Large numbers of people have had contact with the patients."
Officials in North Rhine-Westphalia state said yesterday a 47-year-old man who is seriously ill had been in contact with countless people in recent days, including at Carnival parties.
He also came into contact with 41 people including doctors and nurses while visiting a Cologne hospital for an unrelated checkup. Some of those are now showing symptoms, officials said.
His wife works at a nursery in their home town Gangelt, near the Dutch border. All schools and kindergartens in the area have been shut until at least Monday.
And a soldier in the German Air Force has tested positive after contact with the hospitalised man.
Yesterday Greece, North Macedonia and Norway were added to the list of at least 50 countries that have infections.
The virus was also confirmed in Algeria, only the second African country after Egypt.
In Romania, panicking shoppers stripped supermarket shelves bare after a woman caught the virus from a man who was visiting from Italy.
Brazil confirmed that a businessmen who fell ill in Sao Paulo after a trip to northern Italy has coronavirus.
Many other new cases are linked to Italy, including those in Denmark, Greece, Croatia and Switzerland.
Around 700 holidaymakers including Brits are quarantined in a hotel in Tenerife after four Italians tested positive.
And two new cases were confirmed in the UK - people were were infected in Italy and Tenerife - taking the total to 15 as more than a dozen schools were closed.
Globally the number of infections has topped 82,000 with more than 2,800 deaths.
Most are in China's Hubei province where the outbreak started.
But in a sign it could be spreading out of control, the total new infections around the world was higher yesterday than in the country where it started.
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South Korea reported another 334 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, pushing its total to 1,595 - the most in any country other than China.
Concerns are so high that China quarantined two planes arriving from South Korea over fears the passengers might bring the virus in.
The US has cancelled military exercises with South Korea because of the worsening outbreak, and also said it is ready to shut its bases in Germany.