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Scramble to contain coronavirus as infections spread in Europe

Scramble to contain coronavirus as infections spread in Europe

AFP
Rome
Coronavirus cases spread in Europe and beyond on Wednesday, with Latin America confirming its first patient as the world scrambled to contain the deadly epidemic that has killed thousands worldwide.
New cases have emerged across Europe, many linked to the continent’s coronavirus hotspot in northern Italy, amid warnings from health experts to rein in hysteria over the virus as it continues its march beyond China’s borders.
The novel coronavirus has killed over 2,700 people and infected more than 80,000 in 34 countries. The vast majority of cases remain in China.
But the World Health Organization said on Wednesday more new cases were now being recorded outside China than inside the country, where the deadly virus first emerged in late December.
In a sign of the virus’ expanding footprint, Brazil confirmed Latin America’s first case, a 61-year-old who travelled to Italy’s Lombardy region.
Georgia on Wednesday announced the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in the South Caucasus region. “A Georgian national has tested positive for the novel coronavirus,” Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze told a press conference, adding that the infected man has been placed in isolation in a Tbilisi hospital.
Greece also confirmed its first case Wednesday, a woman who had been in northern Italy, while Spain, Croatia, Austria, North Macedonia and Algeria have all reported cases linked to the country.
Several governments have advised against travel to Italy -- which has 374 cases and 12 deaths -- particularly to the outbreak epicentre in the north.
Even as new cases continued to multiply beyond China’s borders, the European Union sought to head off hysteria over the outbreak.
“This is a situation of concern, but we must not give in to panic,” EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides told reporters in Rome on Wednesday. “We must also be vigilant when it comes to misinformation and disinformation,” she added.
The impact of the virus has moved beyond health systems. Markets have wobbled in recent days -- though Wall street stocks jumped back on Wednesday -- while sports matches and festivals across Europe have been cancelled over virus fears.
A March 7 Six Nations rugby match between Italy and Ireland in Dublin was called off Wednesday, while the famed Venice Carnival was closed early over the weekend.
As cases mounted across Europe, the World Health Organisation warned governments in Europe to remain vigilant.
“You have to keep up and sustain these efforts so that no-one is left behind because ultimately health is a political choice,” WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge said in Rome on Wednesday.

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