Health, Europe

Europe on high alert as novel coronavirus spreading

Cases confirmed across Europe, many countries cancel flights from, to China, evacuate citizens from Wuhan, heart of virus

Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak   | 31.01.2020
Europe on high alert as novel coronavirus spreading


European countries have been on high alert since many countries confirmed cases of infection with the new coronavirus originated in China.

The fatal disease has killed 213 people in China so far, with some 9,600 others infected.

The death toll is rising rapidly as virus spreads worldwide. All the fatalities are in China, yet some 100 cases have been confirmed in 22 countries outside China.

Since its outbreak late last year, China has put Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, under lockdown in a bid to contain the virus and is building a 1,000-bed hospital in the city to treat those affected by the outbreak.

Several European countries have taken precautions to prevent the coronavirus from spreading further.


In the U.K., British health authorities on Friday confirmed two cases of coronavirus, the first such cases seen in the country.

"We can confirm that two patients in England, who are members of the same family, have tested positive for coronavirus,” said Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England.

"The patients are receiving specialist NHS care, and we are using tried-and-tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus,” he said.

The U.K. also evacuated its citizens from Wuhan. A plane carrying Britons has landed at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire on Friday afternoon.

Around 150 people will be kept under quarantine for two weeks.

Also, on Wednesday, British Airways cancelled all flights to and from China amid virus outbreak, said the company statement.

“Following Foreign Office advice against all but essential travel to mainland China we have temporarily suspended our flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai with immediate effect, until Monday February 3, while we assess the situation,” said the statement.

- France

France on Thursday confirmed the sixth case of infection by the novel coronavirus.

Director General of Health Jerome Salomon told reporters that a doctor was diagnosed with the virus after being infected by a patient.

Also, on Thursday, Air France cancelled all flights to and from Wuhan until Feb. 29, for single passengers and group travel. Flights to Shanghai and Beijing will remain in service.

The airline will operate only one flight per day to and from Shanghai and Beijing beginning Friday because of decreased demand.

France sent a plane at 4 a.m. local time (0400GMT) on Thursday to China to retrieve 250 French nationals and 100 European nationals to fly them to France.

The plane carrying approximately 200 French nationals landed in Istres, in the south of France near Marseille on Friday.

They are being put into two weeks of isolation in a holiday resort deep in the middle of an alpine forest in Carry-le-Rouet, also near Marseille.

- Italy

Italy reported its first confirmed coronavirus cases Friday with two Chinese citizens hospitalized earlier in the week.

“There are two confirmed cases of coronavirus in Rome. Thus, the first coronavirus cases have been seen in Italy,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said at a press conference with Health Minister Roberto Speranza and Giuseppe Ippolito, director of the Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases.

“We are extremely cautious and careful. We are not unprepared,” Conte added.

Italy also declared state of emergency for six months and earmarked €5 million ($ 5,5M) later in the day after the confirmed cases, Conte announced.

The premier also said all flights to and from China would be cancelled.

According to Italy’s official news agency ANSA, Italian citizens will be evacuated from Wuhan on Feb. 2.

- Germany

Germany on Friday confirmed the six case of infection by the new coronavirus.

The Bavarian Health Ministry in Munich said the patient was the child of a man who was diagnosed with coronavirus earlier this week.

The man and four of his colleagues were infected with the coronavirus, after they took part in a meeting headed by a colleague who recently came to Germany from China.

The German government has sent a military aircraft to China on Friday for the evacuation of some 100 German citizens from Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province.

Lufthansa Group on Wednesday announced that it suspended all flights to and from China amid virus outbreak.

“Lufthansa, SWISS and Austrian Airlines will suspend their flights to/from (mainland) China until Feb. 9. For operational reasons, acceptance of bookings for flights to (mainland) China will be suspended until end of February,” the company said on Twitter.

- Russia

The first two cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Russia, the country’s vice premier announced on Friday.

Both infected are Chinese citizens living in Russian regions of Zabaykalsky Krai and Tyumen Oblast, Tatyana Golikova said at a news conference in Moscow.

Following the recent developments, the government decided to undertake additional measures to prevent further spread of the disease in the country, Golikova added.

Russia partly closes its border with Mongolia and cancels all air travels to China, except Aeroflot's flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.

Moscow also asked Beijing to keep the slots of regular flights for the charter planes required to evacuate Russian citizens from China, Golikova said.

According to preliminary data, a total of 341 Russians are currently in the Chinese province of Hubei and 2,665 on Hainan Island.

- EU Commission

The European Commission announced on Friday that it would immediately mobilize €10 million for research on the new virus. The funding is expected to support two to four research projects.

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism was activated on Tuesday by the request of France to co-finance the repatriation of European citizens from China.

Travelers from China are being screened for the virus at airports worldwide. Several airlines, including British Airways and Turkish Airlines, suspended flights to Wuhan and other parts of China.

At an emergency meeting Thursday, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak an international emergency.

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