Coronavirus reaches Europe as France confirms 3 cases | News | DW | 24.01.2020
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Coronavirus reaches Europe as France confirms 3 cases

Over 1,300 individuals have contracted the virus worldwide, with the number of fatalities in China reaching 41. As well as France, Australia and Malaysia have confirmed their first cases.

French officials on Friday confirmed three cases of the new coronavirus from China, marking the first time the deadly virus was detected in Europe. 

Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said two of the infected individuals had recently traveled to China, and that they were placed in isolation. The third person is a close relative of one of the other two. 

Buzyn added that more cases were likely to be discovered.

Read more: Everything you need to know about the new coronavirus

"We know that since the patient has been on French soil they have had contact with a dozen people, we are going to contact them," she said of one of the infected patients.

 "You have to treat an epidemic as you treat a fire, quickly to locate the source" and "contain it as quickly as possible," Buzyn added.

The virus, which is thought to have originated at an animal market in Wuhan, spread to humans and can be transmitted from person to person.

Virus spreads around the world

France's announcement came as more than a dozen countries around the world reported infections. Nepal also confirmed a case on Friday — the first in a South Asian country.

Australia reported its first four cases Saturday. Authorities in Victoria state have followed "strict protocols, including isolating the affected person," said Professor Brendan Murphy, Australia's chief medical officer. He added that there may be more cases in Australia.

Read more: Chinese New Year: Entering the Year of the Rat amid the coronavirus crisis

Malaysia, meanwhile, said three Chinese nationals, on holiday from Wuhan and who had passed through Singapore, were found to have the virus. They are now in a stable condition in an isolation ward at a public hospital.

Watch video 01:19

China battles to contain coronavirus

Chinese New Year impact

As of early Saturday, at least 41 fatalities have been reported in China. A further 237 patients are in serious condition. Officials have placed a lockdown on at least 18 cities covering more than 56 million inhabitants in an attempt to contain the virus' spread. More than 1,300 people have been infected globally.

Beijing has also ordered nationwide screening measures at airports, ports, and major train and bus stations to detect the virus.

Medical teams from Shanghai, Guangdong and the People's Liberation Army were sent to Wuhan to relieve strained health workers.

Chinese authorities have also canceled various events relating to Lunar New Year, which begins Saturday. Millions of Chinese travel for the festive holidays to be with family and gather for large public celebrations.

State news agency Xinhua also reported on Saturday that Beijing had sent 450 medical military personnel to Wuhan, many of whom have experience handling cases of SARS and the ebola virus.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam declared a virus emergency in the city, announcing a package of measures to limit travel between mainland China and Hong Kong. Hong Kong has confirmed five cases.

Praise for China

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognized that China faces a national health emergency, but stopped short of declaring the outbreak a global health emergency.

Officials fear the coronavirus outbreak could mirror that of the SARS pandemic, a respiratory virus that originated in China in 2002 and spread quickly, eventually infecting some 8,000 individuals worldwide and killing 800.

At the time, China faced criticism of having covered up the initial situation surrounding the SARS virus. In contrast, health officials have recently praised China for its transparency over the coronavirus.

Read more: SARS remembered — how a deadly respiratory virus hit Asian economies

WHO's director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, after an emergency meeting on Thursday thanked Beijing for its "cooperation and transparency" and approved of the measures China was taking to try and contain further transmission of the virus.  

Following a second confirmed case of the virus in the US, President Donald Trump on Twitter thanked the Chinese president for the country's response.

Germany's health minister, Jens Spahn, also approved of China's response to the coronavirus outbreak. In an interview with Bloomberg TV in Davos, Spahn said, "There's a big difference to SARS. We have a much more transparent China. The action of China is much more effective in the first days already."

Spahn also highlighted international cooperation and communication pertaining to the coronavirus, and said that Germany's center for disease control was checking the situation daily.

ed, mm, cmb/stb (EFE, AFP, dpa)

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