Coronavirus: More cases now outside of China than inside

The international spread of COVID-19 has reached a major turning point - there are now more new cases of the virus outside China than inside. 

The World Health Organisation says the sudden increase of cases is deeply concerning, but they're still not prepared to declare a worldwide pandemic.  

On a high-speed train from Rome to Milan, passengers are all too aware Italy has become a major hotspot for the virus. 

Cases there have jumped to 400, representing a 25 percent surge in 24 hours. 

The virus is tracking fast through Europe. Overnight Greece, Georgia, Norway and Romania were added to the list.

WHO's regional director for Europe Dr Hans Kluge says there are 80,980 cases of COVID-19 in 33 countries globally, and several European countries have linked their cases to Italy.

Italy's government is defending its handling of the disease, and the WHO is backing them up.

"There is indeed no need for a panic [but a need] for trust by the people in what the government in Italy is doing," Dr Kluge says.

A team of health officials are preparing to travel to Iran where three more people are dead there - the death toll is now 19 from almost 100 cases.

The emergency has spread far beyond China, but hospitals in the virus' epicentre Wuhan are still dealing with patients.

Chinese banks have been ordered to disinfect old banknotes in an effort to curb new cases, with ¥600 billion (NZ$135 billion) to be redistributed in six weeks.

China appears to be getting on top of the virus with a slowing rate of new cases.

The current message from the WHO is that containment is possible, and declaring a pandemic would only spark unnecessary fear.