February 24, 2020 / 8:51 AM / 3 months ago

EU says not yet planning travel restrictions over virus

A woman wearing a face mask waits at a metro platform in Milan, Italy February 24, 2020. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission said on Monday the European Union was not yet considering suspending travel within the border-free Schengen area after an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy, but it was preparing contingency plans.

Four people have died in northern Italy of the disease and around 150 cases have been reported since Friday, making Italy the most affected country outside Asia .

“On various scenarios, like a coordinated suspension of Schengen, we are not going to that at the moment, but we are working on various contingency plans,” the EU crisis management commissioner, Janez Lenarcic, told a news conference in Brussels.

Late on Sunday, Austria suspended train services over the Alps to Italy for about four hours before restarting them after two travelers tested negative for coronavirus.

Travel restrictions in the Schengen area should be proportionate and coordinated among EU states, EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said. They should also be based on scientific evidence, she said.

“For the moment, WHO has not advised imposing restrictions on either travel or trade,” Kyriakides told reporters on Monday, adding that a mission of the World Health Organization will go to Italy on Tuesday to assess the situation.

Reporting by Marine Strauss @StraussMarine and Kate Abnett; editing by Francesco Guarascio, Larry King

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