European countries attempted to shield themselves from a severe coronavirus outbreak in Italy on Tuesday with travel bans and warnings, as they introduced ever stricter measures to contain their own domestic epidemics.
Austria announced an entry ban for anyone arriving from Italy and warned its citizens against travelling anywhere in the neighbouring country, which has gone into a national lockdown to try and slow the spread of Covid-19.
The Serbian government banned foreigners arriving from the whole of Italy, as well as parts of China, South Korea, Iran and Switzerland.
Malta banned travel to and from Italy with immediate effect, including all sea and air links, Prime Minister Robert Abela said.
The ban will be in place until further notice and is only related to passengers. Shipments of food, medicine or other cargo between the two countries will continue, Abela said.
Airlines joined the efforts to limit the international spread of the Italy outbreak.
British Airways said it was suspending all routes to and from Italy, which has seen by the worst outbreak in Europe, with over 460 deaths.
Denmark announced that flights from areas badly affected by a coronavirus, including parts of Italy, would not be given permission to land, while Austrian Airlines stopped its flights to the northern Italian cities of Venice, Milan and Bologna.
German airline Lufthansa had already cancelled thousands of its services, with flights to and from Italy particularly affected. The German Foreign Office is currently advising against all but essential travel to Italy.
Health Minister Jens Spahn on Tuesday appealed for an all-hands-on-deck response to the new coronavirus in an op-ed printed in the country’s most-read newspaper.
In the Bild tabloid, Spahn called the outbreak a major challenge for us as a whole society, while stressing that the German health system was well placed to deal with the virus.
“The virus will change our everyday life. We can only do it together,’’ he said.
The outbreak originated in central China in December and has spread rapidly across the globe.
European Union leaders will hold a video conference at 5 pm (1600 GMT) to coordinate efforts to respond to the outbreak.
Germany has confirmed 1,139 cases of infection according to the latest official data and recorded two deaths.
It has reached all 16 of Germany’s federal states after authorities in Saxony-Anhalt confirmed cases of infection there on Tuesday.
A German woman on vacation in Northern Cyprus was diagnosed with coronavirus, state news agency Anadolu reported on Tuesday, the first such case in the Turkish-administered part of the divided island.
The 65-year-old woman was among a group of 30 tourists who arrived in Cyprus on Sunday from Germany’s Balingen, Anadolu quoted the Turkish Cypriot Health Minister Ali Pilli as saying.
The entire group was placed in quarantine at a hotel in Famagusta, Pilli said.
Cultural and sporting life on the continent ground to a standstill in more places, as Poland and Slovakia joined Italy in banning all sports and cultural events. Austria said all indoor events with more than 100 participants would be stopped.
Slovakia’s measures would be in place for 14 days, the ban in Poland did not have an end date and will cover professional football games and concerts, among others. However, theatres, opera houses, philharmonic concert halls or art galleries will be exempt.
Polish President Andrzej Duda announced he will refrain from holding large conventions as part of his electoral campaign.
The risk that the coronavirus may spread is too big. I don’t want to endanger people who come to these meetings,” Duda said late Monday evening.
In the Czech Republic, all schools are being shut and all events with more than 100 participants are being banned.
In North Macedonia, the director of a Skopje dermatology clinic is facing suspension because of reckless disregard for epidemiologic procedures, Health Minister Venko Filipce said.
The doctor returned from skiing in Italy a week ago, then went to work for five days without any precaution or testing and even held a lecture to more than 100 people before she finally tested positive on Monday evening, Filipce said on Tuesday.
The leaders of Northern Ireland’s devolved government have cancelled a planned visit to the U.S. coinciding with St Patrick’s Day celebrations, while Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar still plans to travel to Washington this week but has cut short his trip to allow more time to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.