By Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak and Cindi Cook
ANKARA/PARIS (AA) - Though it started late last year as an Asian-based threat, the deadly novel coronavirus is casting a longer shadow over Europe every day.
The death toll in Italy -- the worst-hit European country -- has risen to 12, according to the latest figures released Wednesday by the country’s head of civil protection.
Some 400 people have been infected with the virus, officially known as COVID-19, with the northern Lombardy region the worst-hit, where nine people have died and 240 people have been infected.
Local media reported that three of the dead were in their 80s and most of the deaths have occurred in Lombardy as well as the Veneto region.
Meanwhile, Lombardy’s governor, Attilio Fontana, said on social media that he will be in self-quarantine for two weeks as a precaution after one of his close colleagues tested positive.
With the number of coronavirus cases in Italy climbing to 400, the epidemic has started spreading to other regions.
Three tourists from Bergamo, a town near Milan, recently tested positive for the virus while on vacation in Palermo, the capital of the southern island of Sicily.
Four minors, ranging in age from 4 to 15, have tested positive for the coronavirus in Lombardy, an official told the La7 private television channel Wednesday.
All of the minors have been hospitalized, and the official stressed that the virus hits older people with preexisting conditions harder, ANSA news agency reported.
Fontana said earlier that 259 people in Lombardy have contracted the virus, and "for the first time, minors are also involved, although their infection is lighter."
- France, Austria
France has reported two deaths from the coronavirus and 18 new cases.
A Frenchman aged 60 died at a hospital in Paris, Jerome Salomon, France's director-general of health, told reporters.
The new cases include a 55-year-old man hospitalized in Amiens, northern France who is said to be "in a serious clinical situation."
Other patients – including two men who separately visited Lombardy and a young Chinese woman who returned to France on Feb. 7 – are not considered to be in serious condition, said Salomon.
Prior to today's reports, 11 of the cases in France were cured and released from medical care.
After an emergency meeting in Rome of health ministers from seven central European countries, Olivier Veran, France's health minister, said closing the nation’s borders would be “unthinkable and ineffective.”
Landlocked Austria, which borders Italy to the south, has also confirmed two cases of the virus.
The governor of the state of Tyrol in the Alps said two Italians in the region had contracted the virus but were not in life-threatening condition.
Switzerland, also bordering Austria, confirmed its first case of the coronavirus Tuesday.
- Western Balkans
Croatia reported two cases of the coronavirus – a man who visited Milan, Italy and his brother.
The first case of the virus was registered Wednesday in North Macedonia from a woman who visited Italy last month.
Health Minister Venko Filipce said the patient, born in 1970, was placed in the isolation ward of the Infectious Diseases Clinic in Skopje.
Prime Minister Oliver Spasovski stressed that the situation is under control and all civil services are fully prepared to respond to the new conditions.
Meanwhile, three Chinese nationals housed in Bosnia and Herzegovina's capital of Sarajevo tested negative for the virus.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced at a press conference that there are no cases in the country and all institutions are prepared for the situation.
Nine people have been diagnosed with the virus in Spain so far, but two of them have been discharged from the hospital.
The first coronavirus case in the capital Madrid was confirmed late Tuesday, local media reported.
Spain’s Health Ministry also issued a travel warning saying that Spaniards should avoid trips to four Italian regions -- Lombardy, Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto -- as well as Japan, Iran, South Korea, Singapore and China unless absolutely necessary.
Meanwhile, the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago off northwestern Africa, isolated nearly 1,000 tourists after an Italian man staying at a hotel tested positive for the virus.
Two new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Germany: a 47-year-old man in North Rhine-Westphalia who is in critical condition and another man in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg.
Some 18 cases have been confirmed in Germany so far, but to date no deaths, and several patients have now been discharged from hospital after treatment.
Greece has confirmed its first case of coronavirus, in the port city of Thessaloniki.
A 38-year-old woman who recently traveled to Italy has been diagnosed with the virus, the Health Ministry reported Wednesday.
The woman's family will also be quarantined for 14 days, the ministry added.
Some 7,132 people have been tested in the U.K. as of Wednesday, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said in a statement, adding 13 have tested positive.
Eight people among those who tested positive have been discharged from the hospital after receiving treatment, he said.
"We have a clear four-part plan to respond to the outbreak of this disease: contain, delay, research and mitigate. We're taking all necessary measures to minimize the risk to the public. We've put in place enhanced monitoring measures at U.K. airports, and health information is available at all international airports, ports and international train stations," said Hancock.
-Sweden and Finland
In a statement, the Public Health Agency of Sweden said a 30-year-old man who came from northern Italy was confirmed with the virus. The patient was taken to a hospital in Gothenburg. The number of cases in Sweden is now two.
In Finland, a woman tested positive for COVID-19, the first case in the country, according to Helsinki University Central Hospital. She had returned from Milan, Italy on Sunday and later contacted officials after feeling ill. Two cases of the virus have been reported in the country so far.