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More states report virus cases, including surge in Italy, and France shuts Louvre

The European Center for Disease Prevent and Control on Monday raised the risk level of the novel coronavirus from moderate to high for people in the European Union.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the ECDC decision at a news conference on Monday.

“The coronavirus has brought governments and health systems throughout Europe to work at all different levels to contain this virus,” she said. She added that European Health Committee is coordinating all national measures so that EU has a very comprehensive approach to contain the virus.

Von der Leyen said that raising the risk level means that the virus continues to spread within EU and more multifaceted actions are needed.

By Monday, the EU reported 2,100 cases of the virus in 18 of its 27 member states, with 38 deaths.

EU on Monday launched a European corona response team that includes five commissioners, to tackle the virus from medical, mobility and economic aspects.

Stella Kyriakidou, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said that every member state is facing different situation, but it’s an evolving situation that is changing rapidly.

“We are facing a rapidly changing situation. … And we all need to be ready for further development,” Kyriakidou said.

The coronavirus is also likely to impact heavily on EU’s economy.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said on Monday that the coronavirus will cut world economic growth this year and could push the eurozone into recession if the epidemic gets worse than projected.

Enhanced measures

More measures to contain the virus have been put in place by European nations amid a surge in infections in Italy and concerns in France that resulted in Paris’ Louvre Museum closing its doors.

Iceland and the Czech Republic confirmed their first infections on Sunday.

In Italy, authorities said the number of people infected had risen to 1,694 as of Sunday, a 50 percent jump from just 24 hours earlier and the highest figure by far in Europe. Five more people infected with the virus have died, bringing the deaths in Italy to 34; 83 people have fully recovered.

In France, the closure of the world-famous Louvre Museum on Sunday was driven by the concerns of workers that they risked being contaminated by the flow of tourists from around the world. The museum remained shut on Monday as management and workers held a meeting over the risks.

“We are very worried because we have visitors from everywhere,” said Andre Sacristin, a Louvre employee and union representative, adding that “the risk is very, very, very great”. There are no known virus infections among the museum’s 2,300 workers.

The shutdown followed a French government decision on Saturday to ban indoor public gatherings of more than 5,000 people.

Two mayors of French cities tested positive for the virus at the weekend. Bruno Fortier, of Crepy-en-Valois, must stay at home with relatively mild symptoms; Francois Daviet, who leads the administration of La Balme-de-Sillingy, tested positive on Saturday and had to be hospitalized.

France raised its number of reported cases to 130 on Sunday, 30 more than the day before. More than half of France’s regions now have at least one case, and the new patients include one in the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, the first in France’s overseas territories.

The British government plans to recall recently retired doctors and outlaw large public gatherings if the novel coronavirus gets a strong foothold in the nation, said Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Sunday.

By press time, the UK has 36 confirmed cases of infections.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that tackling the virus is now his top priority.

Xinhua and agencies contributed to this story.

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