Most infections are in China but other nations like South Korea, Italy and Iran are battling the virus, which causes respiratory disease Covid-19.
A pandemic is when an infectious disease spreads easily from person to person in many parts of the world.
About 77,000 people in China, where the virus emerged last year, have been infected and nearly 2,600 have died.
More than 1,200 cases have been confirmed in about 30 other countries and there have been more than 20 deaths. Italy reported two more deaths on Monday, raising the total there to five.
The proportion of infected patients dying from Covid-19 appears to be between 1% and 2%, although the World Health Organization (WHO) cautions that the mortality rate is not known yet.
On Monday Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Bahrain reported their first cases, all involving people who had come from Iran.
Coronavirus: Could it become a pandemic?
Among other developments:
China said it would postpone its annual meeting of parliament next month in order to "continue the efforts" against the coronavirus
Gold surged to its highest price in seven years as coronavirus fears led investors to seek a safe haven
Worldwide stock markets saw sharp falls due to concerns about the economic impact of the virus
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned on Friday that the window of opportunity to contain the virus was "narrowing".
Paul Hunter, professor of health protection at the University of East Anglia in the UK, echoed his fears, saying the spike in cases outside China was "extremely concerning".
"The tipping point after which [we lose] our ability to prevent a global pandemic seems a lot closer after the past 24 hours," he said on Monday.