Corona virus 2019-nCoV blood test tube with gloves, mask and biohazard bag.

Czech Rep. Steps Up Precautionary Measures As Italian Coronavirus Outbreak Spreads

An outbreak of coronavirus in Northern Italy has spread, with related cases detected in Austria and the Canary Islands. In response, the Czech authorities have stepped up contingency plans to protect citizens in the event that the virus reaches the Czech Republic itself. Photo credit: Freepik / For illustrative purposes.

Czech Rep., Feb 25 (BD) – The coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, was first detected in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, and has since spread to around 40 countries, including 11 in Europe. The first major European outbreak of the virus was detected in Northern Italy a couple of days ago, and despite the enforcement of drastic control measures by the Italian authorities, the virus has continued to spread, with cases reported in Southern Italy, Austria, Croatia, and the Canary Islands, carried by people travelling from Northern Italy.

In response, the Czech government has taken a number of precautionary measures. On Monday, the Czech Foreign Ministry recommended against travel to Northern Italy, one of the most popular destinations for Czech tourists. At Prague Airport, a separate gate has been designated for passengers travelling from Italy, where they will be subject to screening and other measures.

Czech airports remain open, but are on alert for further instructions from the authorities should the situation change. According to Jakub Splavec, spokesman for Brno-Turany Airport, which operates a direct flight to Milan-Bergamo in the centre of the affected area: “We are continuing the information campaign for passengers and aircraft crews. If the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Regional Hygiene Office decides on further measures, we are ready to implement them immediately. As far as our actions are concerned, the airport staff are trained in the event that a passenger arrives showing signs of the coronavirus disease. In this case, an emergency plan will be initiated, in cooperation with a specialized medical team. There is certainly no reason to panic.”

In addition, the Czech Ministry of Defence announced that, in the event of an epidemic, a specialised military hospital will be opened to quarantine those infected, in Těchonín in the Pardubice Region. The hermetically-sealed facility is fully equipped with intensive care and regular beds, quarantine areas, and research laboratories, and can be opened on the authority of the Chief Hygiene Officer of the Czech Republic.

Austria reported its first confirmed cases of the virus on Tuesday morning, in two young Italians from Lombardy who are living in Innsbruck. A 55-year-old man from Linz is currently being tested after falling ill following a trip to Venice. In Tenerife, a 1000-capacity hotel is on lockdown after one of the guests, an Italian doctor, tested positive for the virus. Six Czechs are among those being quarantined, and are receiving support from a Czech consul at the scene. 

In other coronavirus news, the South Moravian Region yesterday approved an aid package for the Chinese provinces worst hit by the epidemic, namely Guangdong, Hainan and Hebei. The CZK 1 million aid package, mostly in the form of respiratory equipment, will leave the Czech Republic within the next two weeks. 

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