A nurse raised the alarm at approximately 3am on Wednesday morning when she discovered the patient’s bed was empty. After a large-scale police operation in the city, the woman was eventually found back in her apartment at 10:30am local time and returned to quarantine. 

“The woman was admitted to the isolation ward of the university hospital for security reasons,” a Salzburg city spokesperson said, adding that authorities were as yet unsure whether the patient was infected with the coronavirus. 

There’s still no clear answer as to how she managed to escape from the hospital. Authorities are now faced with the unenviable task of producing a movement and contact assessment for anyone with whom the woman may have come into contact during her escape.

The Office for Public Order and the Health Department may be forced to take additional people into quarantine, depending on the findings of their report. 

The 31-year-old woman traveled from Taiwan to New Zealand on January 7 before taking a flight home on January 26, during which she began having respiratory problems. 

As her condition worsened, she called the Austrian emergency health hotline to describe her symptoms, at which point she was taken by ambulance to Salzburg University Hospital. 

Doctors have yet to confirm a coronavirus infection, though they did manage to rule out the standard influenza virus. A throat swab sample has been sent to a laboratory in Vienna for immediate testing, the results of which are expected later on Wednesday afternoon.

In Vienna, roughly 500 beds have been designated for coronavirus patients, with a further 200 earmarked in private hospitals should they be required.

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