Wuhan virus: Italy confirms two cases, stops air traffic with China

Medical staff in an isolation room of a hospital in Genoa, Italy, on Jan 30, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

ROME (BLOOMBERG, AFP) - Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said two coronavirus patients are currently in isolation in a Rome hospital, and all flights to and from China have been halted.

"We think we are the first European Union country to take this precautionary measure," Mr Conte told a news conference.

The two Chinese tourists have been under observation since Wednesday (Jan 29), Mr Conte said, adding that there is no reason to panic and that the country is well prepared to cope with the emergency.

Eighteen Chinese tourists were taken by bus to a Rome hospital as a precautionary measure after their vehicle was halted by authorities, according to the regional health administration.

Italian television station Canale 5 reported that the two infected patients came from that group or had been in contact.

The announcement comes at the end of a tense day that saw about 7,000 people blocked on a cruise ship in Civitavecchia, near Rome, after a passenger reported fever and respiratory problems.

The passenger eventually tested negative to coronavirus and holidaymakers were allowed to disembark late on Thursday.

Mr Conte said Italy's Cabinet would meet on Friday to discuss further steps to tackle the crisis.

The World Health Organisation on Thursday declared the coronavirus outbreak an international emergency as cases spread to at least 18 countries, allowing global authorities to help countries with less robust health systems.

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