Germany's interior minister rebuffed Chancellor Angela Merkel's attempt to shake hands with him on Monday as the number of novel coronavirus cases in the country rose to 157 with Berlin reporting its first infection.

When Merkel reached out to greet Horst Seehofer at a meeting on migration in Berlin, he smiled and kept both his hands to himself.

They both laughed and Merkel then threw her hand up in the air before taking a seat.

Health experts have recommended avoiding handshakes as a way of preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

There are now 157 confirmed cases in Germany, the Robert Koch Institute disease control agency said on Monday -- up from 129 the previous day.

The alert level has been raised from "low to moderate" to "moderate," Lothar Weiler of the Robert Koch Institute said.

However, authorities say drastic measures such as border closures to stem the contagion are not needed.

The coronavirus has now spread to 10 of Germany's 16 states, with more than half the confirmed cases in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Germany's most populous state emerged as a hotspot after an infected couple attended carnival celebrations there, infecting dozens of people.

Merkel reached out to greet Horst Seehofer at a meeting on migration in Berlin
Merkel reached out to greet Horst Seehofer at a meeting on migration in Berlin AFP / John MACDOUGALL

Carmaker BMW confirmed on Monday that one of its employees in Munich has tested positive for the virus.

Staff who have had close contact with the man have been asked to self-quarantine for 14 days, a spokeswoman said, and affected areas have been sealed off and disinfected.

Amid growing fears over contagion, disinfectants, hand sanitisers and other protective products have sold out in many German shops.

In Lower Saxony, 1,200 protective face masks were stolen from a hospital in the town of Sulingen near Bremen, news agency DPA reported, citing local police.

The hospital reported the theft after a stock check revealed that the masks were missing from a storage room.

They were probably stolen on Wednesday or Thursday last week, police said.

With panic setting in, security at Bundesliga football club RB Leipzig threw out a group of Japanese fans, forcing the team to apologise on Monday.

The group were removed from the stadium by security about 10 minutes into the game against Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday.

The club said its security had made a "mistake" after being asked to carry out extra checks on people from potential risk areas.