ROME - The Italian government said Tuesday it has confirmed more than 30,000 coronavirus cases in the country, the largest figure after mainland China.

The number of individuals who have tested positive for the coronavirus in Italy, the country hit hardest by COVID-19 in Europe, jumped by 3,526 from Monday to 31,506. The country's deaths from the virus soared to 2,503, up 345.

Despite a nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, infection cases keep rising, gradually reaching the central and southern parts of the country from the most affected northern regions.

The Lombardy region reported the highest number of cases at 16,220. Northern Italy including Lombardy faces a severe shortage of doctors and nurses as well as hospital beds and artificial respirators.

Tedros Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization, said last week that Europe has become the epicenter of the new coronavirus after the illness raged in China and elsewhere around the world.