French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday after visiting a hospital in Paris that the COVID-19 outbreak will soon become an epidemic.
“Crisis, an epidemic that is on the way,” Macron insisted while speaking to healthcare personnel at the hospital. So far, two people died from the virus in France, while at least 18 people were infected.
With this statement, Macron joined Germany’s Minister of Health Jens Spahn who warned yesterday his country was at the beginning of a coronavirus epidemic.
As the cases spread and multiply, calls for closing borders have grown louder.
EU officials have agreed that refusing border crossing within the Schengen area for those who show coronavirus symptoms is “not appropriate.” The group of experts warned that this could even facilitate the spread of disease.
If you are not in an area where #COVID19 is spreading, or if you have not travelled from one of those areas or have not been in close contact with someone who has & is feeling unwell, your chances of getting it are currently low
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) February 27, 2020
The Schengen area is made up of those EU countries that do not enforce border controls.
So far no country has taken that drastic step, but privately European officials warned that this could change quickly. On Wednesday, the bloc’s top official for communicable diseases said that Europe needed to prepare more broadly for the kind of crisis that has hit northern Italy.
“Our current assessment is that we will likely see a similar situation in other countries in Europe, and that the picture may vary from country to country,” said the official, Andrea Ammon, director of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
In Europe, Denmark, Estonia, Norway and Romania all reported their first cases, while several other countries registered new infections that illustrated the diverse ways the pathogen could cross borders.
Two new cases in Britain, for instance, were linked to Italy and to Tenerife in the Canary Islands of Spain.
While the spread of the virus from northern Italy has been taking place for some time, the spread from Tenerife — where a hotel visited by an Italian doctor who tested positive for the virus remains locked down — would be a first.