UPDATES DEATH TOLL IN ITALY, FIRST CASE IN GREECE; CHANGES DECK
By Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak and Cindi Cook
ANKARA / PARIS (AA) - Though it started last year as an Asian-based threat, coronavirus is casting a longer shadow over Europe every day.
The death toll in Italy – the worst-hit country – rose to 12, according to the latest figures on Wednesday from the country’s head of civil protection.
Some 374 people have been infected with COVID-19, with Lombardy the worst hit, a region where nine people have died and 240 people have been infected.
Local media reported that three of the dead were in their eighties and most of the deaths occurred in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto.
With the number of coronavirus cases in Italy climbing to 323, the epidemic has started spreading to other regions.
Three tourists from Bergamo, a town near Milan, tested positive for the virus while on vacation in Palermo, the capital of the southern island of Sicily.
Four minors – with ages ranging from 4 to 15 – have tested positive for the coronavirus in Lombardy, an official told La7 private television on Wednesday.
All the minors are hospitalized, and the official stressed that the disease hits older people with preexisting conditions harder, reported the ANSA wire service.
Attilio Fontana, Lombardy’s governor, said that 259 people have contracted the virus in Lombardy and "for the first time, minors are also involved, although their infection is lighter."
France has reported the first death of a French citizen from coronavirus, as well as four new cases of the disease.
A Frenchman age 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, said to be "in a serious clinical situation."
The other patients – 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.
The new cases bring the total number in France to 16 since the start of the global outbreak in December. Prior to today's reports, 11 of those cases in France have been cured and released from medical care, while one patient died, an 80-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan who passed away on Feb. 14.
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 border 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 disease but were not in life-threatening condition.
Switzerland, also bordering Austria, confirmed its first case of coronavirus on Tuesday, and the Balkan nation of Croatia also reported two cases of coronavirus, one of whom had visited Milan, Italy as well as his brother.
Nine people have been confirmed with the virus in Spain so far, but two of them have been discharged from 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 that Spaniards should avoid going to four Italian regions – Lombardy, Piamonte, Emilia-Romana 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-Württemberg
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 on Wednesday.
The woman's family will also be quarantined for 14 days, the ministry added.