WHO says world not ready for pandemic
Several European countries have announced their first coronavirus cases, all apparently linked to the growing outbreak in Italy.
Austria, Croatia, and Switzerland said the cases involved people who had been to Italy, as did Algeria in Africa.
The first positive virus test has been recorded in Latin America – a Brazilian resident just returned from Italy.
Italy has in recent days become Europe’s worst-affected country, with more than 300 cases and 11 deaths.
But its neighbours have decided closing borders would be “disproportionate”.
Health ministers from France, Germany, Italy and the EU Commission committed to keeping frontiers open at a meeting on Tuesday as new cases of the virus emerged throughout Europe and in central and southern Italy.
“We’re talking about a virus that doesn’t respect borders,” said Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza.
His German counterpart Jens Spahn said the neighbours were taking the situation “very, very seriously” but acknowledged “it could get worse before it gets better”.
In the UK, schoolchildren returning from holidays in northern Italy have been sent home, with the government issuing new guidance to travellers.
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But Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there were no plans to stop flights from Italy, which attracts about three million British visitors each year.
“If you look at Italy, they stopped all flights from China and they’re now the worst-affected country in Europe,” he said.