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Europe steps up efforts to curb virus

China Daily | Updated: 2020-03-06 10:00
Tourists take precautions while visiting the Colosseum in Rome, Italy, on Wednesday. [Photo/XINHUA]

Governments across Europe have resorted to increasingly sweeping measures to contain the novel coronavirus outbreak, including shutting schools and universities, and ensuring health workers have enough supplies of medical protection gear such as masks and gloves.

The number of infections on the European continent has been rising, with nearly 30 nations reporting over 3,700 cases as of Wednesday.

Bosnia and Herzegovina confirmed its first infection, local television station RTRS reported on Thursday, quoting the health ministry but without details.

And Slovenia confirmed its first case too, Health Minister Ales Sabeder said on Wednesday. The patient had traveled home to Slovenia from Morocco through neighboring Italy and was now in isolation in a Ljubljana hospital.

The first case was also detected among staff at the Council of the European Union on Wednesday. Earlier that day, a staff member of the European Defence Agency was also confirmed as infected. All meetings at the EU headquarters in the city have been canceled until March 13.

So far, Italy remains the worst-affected country in Europe. And Italy's Deputy Economy Minister Laura Castelli said on Thursday the country is likely to increase to 5 billion euros ($5.6 billion) the value of measures to help its economy withstand Europe's largest outbreak.

Italy shut all schools and universities starting from Thursday to March 15 due to the outbreak.

As of Wednesday, there were 3,089 cases in Italy, and the death toll had jumped to 107. The Italian government also decreed on Wednesday that soccer games and other sporting events will take place without spectators until at least April 3.

Germany's Interior Ministry said on Wednesday that it had published a decree outlawing "the export abroad of medical protective gear (masks, gloves, protective suits, etc)" to ensure that health workers in the country have enough to deal with the outbreak.

Protect supplies

The decision comes as governments around the world are striving to protect supplies, as fears over the virus have triggered panic buying and hoarding. Germany had 349 cases of the virus as of Thursday morning, up from 240 on Wednesday morning, the public health institute said.

In Paris, the Louvre Museum reopened on Wednesday afternoon, after staff members voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to resume work and managers promised measures to ease workers' fears about catching the virus from visitors.

Meanwhile, France has 285 confirmed cases, the head of the public health service, Jerome Salomon, said on Wednesday, an increase of 73 compared to the day earlier.

And, in the United Kingdom the total number of infections jumped by 36 to 87 as of Wednesday, its biggest day-on-day increase so far.

The UK government predicts that around a fifth of the country's workforce could be off at the same time when the infection reaches its peak. It said that the police may be forced to focus on maintaining public order if the disease spreads.

Jonathan Powell in London, Xinhua and agencies contributed to this story.

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