MONTREAL -- Quebec health officials are monitoring 30 people who may have contracted the novel coronavirus, now known as COVID-19.

The number, which is updated daily by the provincial health ministry, is the highest it has been since the start of the outbreak. The spike in the number of people being evaluated has grown because on Tuesday Quebec added five countries to a watch list that had previously only included mainland China and Hong Kong.

Now travellers who show symptoms of respiratory illness who had recently travelled to South Korea, Iran, Italy, Japan and Singapore, will be tested for the new coronavirus.

So far, 53 people have been tested for the disease in Quebec. None of them had it. There have, however, been 12 confirmed cases of the disease in Canada.

In recent days, concern has grown among global health officials as, for the first time, more cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed outside of China -- where it originated -- than inside.

Italy has scrambled to respond to dozens of cases just as Iran has done the same.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing. People most at risk of complications are those with a weakened immune system or chronic disease and the elderly.

All Quebecers who have returned from Hubei province in China are asked to self-isolate and monitor themselves for 14 days after leaving the province. In addition, they are requested to call Info-Santé at 811 to alert public health authorities within 24 hours of their return.

There has not yet been a positive COVID-19 case in Quebec, although Quebecers travelling on the Diamond Princess cruise ship have caught it overseas.