Spanish, British citizens catch coronavirus in France as containment effort continues

ASSOCIATED PRESS
LISBON
Published 09.02.2020 20:18
A pedestrian wears a surgical mask in London's China Town on January 24, 2020. AFP Photo
A pedestrian wears a surgical mask in London's China Town on January 24, 2020. (AFP Photo)

The U.K. confirmed its fourth case of the new virus from China and Spain reported its second case as European authorities pressed Sunday to contain the spread of the coronavirus by hunting down those who came into contact with infected people.

Both the new cases were acquired during trips to France, officials said.

French medical authorities were zeroing in on a ski resort in the Alps where five British citizens, including a 9-year-old child, contracted the virus. Officials were testing hundreds of children and their families in Contamines-Montjoie.

French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn visited the resort on Sunday and sought to reassure residents and tourists that they can "live normally" there because there's a "very weak risk" of catching the virus.

Even so, the fact that a British man who had become infected during a business trip to Singapore could infect others days later in the French Alps underscored the potential for the outbreak to spread further.

Italian health authorities in Tuscany, meanwhile, were trying to re-trace the steps of a Taiwanese couple who stayed four days in a Florence hotel. They flew to Hong Kong and then to Taiwan on Feb. 1 and were later confirmed to have the virus.

The new U.K. case is a known contact of a previously confirmed case there, the country's Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said, adding that "experts ... continue to work hard tracing patient contacts."

In Spain, authorities were working to identify everyone who came into contact with a British man whose case was detected in Mallorca, a popular vacation island in the Mediterranean Sea, Spain's National Microbiology Center said.

The man, who lives on the island, contracted the virus at the end of January at a French ski resort, according to Fernando Simón, head of Spain's Coordination Center for Health Alerts and Emergencies. He did not say whether it was Contamines-Montjoie.

The man, who was not identified, is healthy but was being kept in isolation in Palma de Mallorca, Simón told a news conference in Madrid. His wife and two daughters tested negative.

In Britain, a plane evacuating more than 200 people from the Chinese city at the center of the epidemic landed Sunday at RAF Brize Norton. British officials said it brought back 105 British citizens and family members, as well as 95 European citizens and family members. In a carefully coordinated ballet of secure planes and buses, those passengers were distributed around Europe.

The British passengers were taken to a hotel-conference center in Milton Keys, where they will be quarantined for 14 days.

Some 20 people from Germany on the British flight were taken to Berlin, to be tested and quarantined at a hospital for two weeks. Another 17 European evacuees were flown to Berlin and were being transported on to Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria and Romania on special flights.

Thirty-five French citizens on the British flight were flown to southern France and were immediately taken into quarantine. The French government had already brought hundreds of Europeans and Africans from Wuhan back on two earlier flights to France.

Eight Italians on the British flight were flown to Italy by the Italian air force and were transferred to a Italian military hospital in Rome to be quarantined. Aboard the same flight to Italy were also seven Danes, three Swedes and two Greeks.

The virus death toll in China rose Sunday to 811, passing the number of fatalities in the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic, and officials said nearly 37,200 people have been infected there.

Europe has seen a total of 39 infections in nine countries, including 14 in Germany.

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter