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The Coronavirus Threat Just Got Real in Europe

Europe is bracing for an impending coronavirus epidemic, after Italy reported another huge surge in infections Thursday. Italian officials announced that the death toll in the country had risen to 14, with 528 others infected — up more than 200 in just two days. Italy has been the center of the outbreak in Europe, and…

The Coronavirus Threat Just Got Real in Europe

Europe is bracing for an impending coronavirus epidemic, after Italy reported another huge surge in infections Thursday.

Italian officials announced that the death toll in the country had risen to 14, with 528 others infected — up more than 200 in just two days. Italy has been the center of the outbreak in Europe, and the number of cases there has surged since a cluster of 16 patients was detected last Friday in the northern region of Lombardy, a popular skiing and tourism destination.

Since then, the virus has spread rapidly to other countries through patients who have recently travelled to northern Italy. Spain, Germany, Denmark, and the United Kingdom all reported new patients Thursday who tested positive for the virus after traveling to the region, adding to cases in Austria, Croatia, Romania, Greece, Switzerland, and North Macedonia who were infected the same way.

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In response, Italian authorities have placed 11 northern towns under quarantine, including Codogno, the Lombardy town that the local press has dubbed “the Wuhan of Italy,” where the local outbreak began. No one is permitted to enter or leave.

Elsewhere on the continent, officials, companies, and schools have ramped up their responses to the growing outbreak.

French President Emmanuel Macron didn’t mince his words Thursday during a visit to a Parisian hospital where the first French person died of COVID-19 days earlier.

“We are facing a crisis, an epidemic that is coming,” said Macron. “We know we are just at the beginning.”

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The French government has asked people returning from Lombardy or Veneto — another popular tourist region in the north — to stay at home and keep their children out of school. British schools are closing their doors to students returning from northern Italian ski trips.

Two major rugby matches between Ireland and Italy, scheduled to be played in Dublin over the weekend, have also been postponed due to fears of contagion.

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Macron’s comments echoed a warning from German Health Minister Jens Spahn late Wednesday that the country was at “the beginning of a coronavirus epidemic,” as the spread of the disease in Europe entered a new phase.

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