Coronavirus spreads to Croatia, Austria and Switzerland after Italy outbreak

Several European countries have announced their first coronavirus cases, with all appearing to be linked to the growing outbreak in Italy

Italy has in recent days become Europe's worst-affected country, with more than 300 cases and 11 deaths
Italy has in recent days become Europe's worst-affected country, with more than 300 cases and 11 deaths

Several European countries have announced their first coronavirus cases, with all appearing to be linked to the growing outbreak in Italy

Austria, Croatia and Switzerland said the cases involved people who had been to Italy, as did Algeria in Africa.

The first positive virus test has been recorded in Latin America, a Brazilian resident just returned from Italy.

Italy has in recent days become Europe's worst-affected country, with more than 300 cases and 11 deaths.

However neighbouring countries have decided closing borders would be "disproportionate".

Health ministers from France, Germany, Italy and the EU Commission committed to keeping frontiers open at a meeting on Tuesday as new cases of the virus emerged throughout Europe and in central and southern Italy.

"We're talking about a virus that doesn't respect borders," said Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said they were taking the situation "very, very seriously" but acknowledged "it could get worse before it gets better".

In the UK, schoolchildren returning from holidays in northern Italy have been sent home, with the government issuing new guidance to travellers.

However, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there were no plans to stop flights from Italy, which attracts about three million British visitors each year.

"If you look at Italy, they stopped all flights from China and they're now the worst-affected country in Europe," he said.

Italy is one of three global hot-spots outside China. In Iran, fewer than 100 people have officially been infected but it's assumed the numbers are far higher. The infection of the country's deputy health minister has deepened fears that the virus has already spread widely.

More than 1,100 people have been infected in South Korea, where 11 people have died. The country has the most infections outside China. The US military confirmed that one of its soldiers based in South Korea had tested positive for the virus, marking the first infection of a US service member. It said the 23-year-old soldier - who had been based near the city of Daegu - was in self-quarantine.

Some 28,500 US troops are stationed in South Korea as a deterrence against potential aggression from North Korea.

Many of the cases in South Korea are linked to a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the city of Daegu. All the church's more than 215,000 members are now being tested by health authorities, according to reports.

Most of the cases of the new coronavirus remain in China, where the virus originated last year.

According to the latest figures published on Wednesday, 78,064 people have been infected since the outbreak began.

Health officials also reported 52 more deaths on Tuesday, the lowest daily total in more than three weeks. The overall death toll in mainland China is now 2,715.

Numbers of new infections have been declining in China, and attention has now turned to clusters of cases abroad and transmission between countries.

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