Europe imposes new travel bans after Italy’s national lockdown
European countries attempted to block a severe coronavirus outbreak in Italy from spreading any further on Tuesday with travel bans and warnings, as they introduced ever stricter measures to contain their own domestic epidemics.
Spain became the latest country to ban flights from Italy, which has seen by the worst outbreak in Europe, with more than 460 deaths.
Austria, Serbia and Malta also said they would no longer allow in arrivals from the virus-hit country, which has gone into nationwide lockdown in a bid to slow the spread of Covid-19.
Denmark said it had banned flights from badly affected areas, including parts of Italy, while Austrian Airlines stopped flights to the northern Italian cities of Venice, Milan and Bologna.
Spain raised its own concerns after registering a sharp jump in cases to 1,600, up 400 from the day before, and announced it would close its parliament until further notice.
Speaking ahead of a video conference of European Union leaders scheduled for 5 pm (1600 GMT), European Council President Charles Michel urged the continent to coordinate its response to the crisis.
“Our duty is to strengthen an EU-coordinated approach,” Michel tweeted, adding he had spoken to Italian premier Giuseppe Conte about the “extraordinary situation.”
Earlier, the European Parliament announced it would cut short next month’s session and relocate it from Strasbourg to Brussels.
European Parliament President David Sassoli said he had put himself into pre-emptive, self-imposed quarantine after visiting Italy, adding he would be fulfilling his functions from his residence in Brussels.
The virus has now been reported in all 27 member states. France confirmed 1,606 coronavirus infections and 30 deaths, an increase of five from Monday, while Britain confirmed an additional 54 cases, taking the country’s total to 373, including six deaths.
Swiss authorities confirmed the number of cases in the country rose to 476, an increase of 52 per cent on the previous day.
A German woman on vacation in Northern Cyprus was diagnosed with coronavirus, state news agency Anadolu reported, the first such case in the Turkish-administered part of the divided island.
Airlines joined the efforts to limit the spread of the outbreak from Italy, with British Airways announcing it was suspending all routes to and from the country.
Ryanair will suspend Italian international flights from Friday and domestic flights from Wednesday, both until April 8.
Airlines have been badly hit by travel bans, with Norwegian the latest to announce flight cancellations. The carrier said it was cancelling an estimated 3,000 flights from now until mid-June – about 15 per cent of its flying capacity.
On the Spanish island of Mallorca, usually popular with tourists, hoteliers said they were eyeing a dramatic slump in Easter bookings with concern.
Germany confirmed on Tuesday that the virus had reached all 16 of its federal states after authorities in Saxony-Anhalt announced their first infections.
Health Minister Jens Spahn on Tuesday appealed for an all-hands-on-deck response to the new coronavirus.
In the Bild tabloid, Spahn called the outbreak “a major challenge for us as a whole society … The virus will change our everyday life. We can only do it together.”
The outbreak originated in central China in December and has spread rapidly across the globe. About 110,000 people have become infected around the world, according to the World Health Organization, of which over 3,800 have died.
Cultural and sporting life on the continent ground to a standstill in more places on Tuesday, as Poland and Slovakia joined Italy in banning all sports and cultural events. Austria and the Czech Republic 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.
Pop star Madonna announced she was cancelling two upcoming Paris tour dates on March 10 and 11 after the French government banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people.
Organizers of the Lit.Cologne fair in western Germany said this year’s 12-day festival would not take place. More than 200 exhibitors and 100,000 visitors had been expected to attend what is one of Europe’s biggest literature festivals.
Berlin’s Senate said it was cancelling all state-owned theatre, opera and concert events until the end of the Easter break.
In the Vatican, St Peter’s Square and St Peter’s Basilica have been closed to the public due to the coronavirus crisis.
The Vatican pharmacy and the supermarket will remain open, but other shops and the canteen for staff will close, a statement said.
In Poland, a number of universities decided to cancel classes and other events while president Andrzej Duda said he would refrain from organising large gatherings as he campaigned ahead of May’s election. Greece is also set to shutter its schools.