Britain, Germany and Italy have announced more cases of the new virus from China, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Europe to 31. In Germany, all but two cases are related to auto parts supplier Webasto, whose headquarters near Munich was visited by a Chinese colleague. Germany’s 13th confirmed case of the new coronavirus, announced by Bavaria’s health ministry, was the wife of an employee previously diagnosed with virus. Two of their children are among those infected. Neither they nor their mother are showing any symptoms. Germany’s two other cases tested positive after arriving on an evacuation flight from China last weekend.
British authorities confirmed the country’s third case, saying the patient did not contract the virus in the UK. They did not elaborate. The two other cases are a Chinese student studying at York University in England and a relative of that student. Italy announced the first case of an Italian citizen confirmed to have the virus. A government health institute official, Giovanni Rezza, said the 34-year-old man contracted the virus in Wuhan, where he was living. The man was one of 56 Italians who arrived in Italy on Monday via an Italian air force plane that evacuated them from Wuhan.
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All the evacuees were put in quarantine at a military facility near Rome, but the man was moved to Rome’s Spallanzani infectious disease hospital after test results Thursday indicated “a suspected case” of the virus. That is the same hospital where a Chinese couple in their 60s were admitted last week with confirmed virus cases. They are in intensive care with pneumonia. In Geneva, the head of the World Health Organization said it is convening an international research conference next week to identify promising drug and vaccine candidates to be fast-tracked for development against the new virus.
At a news conference, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the UN health agency will be inviting scientists from around the world, both in person and virtually, next Tuesday and Wednesday to identify research priorities and coordinate the effort to find effective drugs and vaccines. On the travel front, Air France announced it was prolonging by more than a month its suspension of flights to mainland China, which won’t now restart before March 16 at the earliest because of the new virus.
The company’s current suspension of all flights to Shanghai and Beijing was meant to last until this Sunday. Air France and partner airline KLM plan to gradually resume services to China on March 16, together offering one daily flight to both Shanghai and Beijing, either on Air France from Paris or on KLM from Amsterdam. Air France says all of its flights to mainland China should resume beginning on March 29, including to Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic.
Spain’s national airline Iberia says it has extended its suspension of flights between Madrid and Shanghai until the end of April. Spain’s tourism department says there has been a significant slowdown in Chinese tourists visiting Spain and in Spanish travelers going to China. Virgin Atlantic said Thursday it was suspending its London-Shanghai flights until March 28 because of the outbreak. British Airways has also halted all flights to China, apart from Hong Kong.
In London, China’s ambassador to the U.K. said his country was “fully confident in beating the virus,” and urged other nations not to overreact. “It is of hope that governments of all countries, including the U.K., should understand and support China’s efforts, avoid overreaction, avoid creating panic, and ensure normal co-operation and exchanges between countries,” he told reporters. As of Friday, China had 636 virus deaths and 31,161 confirmed cases on the mainland. Two other deaths occurred in Hong Kong and the Philippines. Besides Germany, Britain and Italy, other European nations with cases of the virus include France, Russia, Belgium, Sweden, Finland and Spain.