January 31, 2020 / 10:06 AM / 21 days ago

Italy cabinet to discuss declaring coronavirus emergency after first two cases confirmed

A passenger in a protective mask is seen at Rome's Fiumicino airport, after first cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Italy, January 31, 2020. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s government is set to discuss declaring a state of national emergency after confirming the first two cases of the new coronavirus in the country since the outbreak in China, a cabinet statement said on Friday.

Late on Thursday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced that two Chinese tourists who were visiting Italy had contracted the virus, adding that the government had decided to close air traffic to and from China.

Italy’s civil aviation authority ENAC on Friday said all flights between China and Italy had been suspended until further notice at the behest of health authorities.

Flights that had already taken off when the notice was issued have been authorized to land in Milan and Rome, where passengers will be screened and will be able to leave again as planned.

The two Chinese tourists were put in an isolation unit of Rome’s Spallanzani institute, a center specializing in infectious diseases and viruses, while authorities are trying to piece together the itinerary of their trip across Italy.

The World Health Organization has declared that the coronavirus outbreak that has killed 213 people in China now constitutes a global public health emergency.

Reporting by Angelo Amante; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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