Europe battles to contain coronavirus as Germany warns of ‘start of an epidemic’

Germany has warned of the ‘start of an epidemic’ as Europe scrambles to contain a coronavirus outbreak spreading from Italy across the continent.  

Denmark, Switzerland, Romania, North Macedonia and the city of Athens have all confirmed their first virus cases in the last two days – all of them linked to Italy. 

Supermarket shelves were empty in Italy and Romania as panicking shoppers rushed to prepare for a quarantine.  

In Germany yesterday a train was stopped for two hours with a fleet of emergency workers descending on a remote station after a passenger returning from Italy showed symptoms of the virus on board. 

The country’s health minister Jens Spahn warned yesterday that ‘we are at the beginning of a coronavirus epidemic in Germany’. 

Alarm: A fleet of emergency workers and a halted train at Idar-Oberstein station in Germany yesterday after a passenger showed possible virus symptoms 

Empty shelves: Supermarkets were stripped of supplies in Romania (pictured) as panic-buying shoppers rushed to prepare for a coronavirus quarantine

Empty shelves: Supermarkets were stripped of supplies in Romania (pictured) as panic-buying shoppers rushed to prepare for a coronavirus quarantine 

Protection: Passengers on Milan's metro wear masks in the carriage yesterday with northern Italy at the centre of Europe's coronavirus outbreak

Protection: Passengers on Milan’s metro wear masks in the carriage yesterday with northern Italy at the centre of Europe’s coronavirus outbreak 

Denmark confirmed its first case of the virus early today, saying a man who returned from a skiing trip in northern Italy had tested positive. 

‘The man who came back from a skiing trip with his wife and son on February 24 has been suffering since then from a cough and a temperature,’ Denmark’s public health agency said.

‘The man tested positive, but the results of his wife and son are negative,’ it said.

The man is relatively well and has returned to his home, where he remains in isolation with his family, officials say.

The virus has also spread from Italy to Switzerland, where a man in his 70s from the Italian-speaking region of Ticino has been taken to hospital. 

The man was infected near Milan where he attended an event on February 15, federal health office chief Pascal Strupler told reporters. 

‘His state of health is good,’ the health office said in a statement, adding that the risk of contagion for Switzerland as a whole remained only ‘moderate’.

But it also said that, because of the proximity to Italy, ‘the probability is growing that other cases will be diagnosed’. 

The government said on Monday that it had stepped up testing on patients with flu-like symptoms and was working to raise awareness at all border points. 

Italian football fans wear masks during a Champions League match in France last night, where French side Lyon played Turin team Juventus

Italian football fans wear masks during a Champions League match in France last night, where French side Lyon played Turin team Juventus 

An empty freezer drawer at a supermarket in Romania, which confirmed its first case on Wednesday - a man who was in contact with an Italian who visited the country last week

An empty freezer drawer at a supermarket in Romania, which confirmed its first case on Wednesday – a man who was in contact with an Italian who visited the country last week

An Italian sanitation worker cleans a Venice water bus yesterday, with the province of Veneto one of the worst-affected regions of Italy

An Italian sanitation worker cleans a Venice water bus yesterday, with the province of Veneto one of the worst-affected regions of Italy 

Romania reported its first case on Wednesday – a man who was in contact with an Italian who visited the country last week.

North Macedonia had its first case yesterday, after a woman who had returned from a month in Italy was found to be infected with the virus. 

Estonia also confirmed its first case today, although that was believed to be linked to Iran – another coronavirus hotspot – rather than Italy. 

Italy has confirmed more than 400 cases of the virus with the death toll now at 12 and 50,000 people living under an armed lockdown in northern towns. 

EU leaders have rejected calls to shut down border crossings but a number of countries have said people may need to isolate themselves if they return from Italy. 

In Spain, hundreds of tourists are beginning a two-week quarantine at a Tenerife hotel after an Italian doctor brought the virus to the complex. 

The doctor, his wife and two more Italians who travelled with them tested positive for the virus after staying at the Canary Islands resort.  

Five other cases have been detected in mainland Spain in the last 24 hours – one in the Valencia region, two in the Madrid region and another two in Catalonia.  

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