The race is on to contain the coronavirus outbreak in Europe


Outside of Asia, the number of cases of the virus has risen to over 650 in Italy, the worst outbreak in Europe

Tens of thousands in a “red zone” in northern Italy have been put on effective lockdown, as officials race to stop it spreading throughout the country. 

Meanwhile, Belarus and Lithuania have reported their first cases of the virus, as France reported two new infections, bringing its total to 40.

Economic impacts: That could have a major effect on the country’s economy, with the Italian finance minister saying Thursday that the four most affected regions make up 50% of the country’s GDP. The outbreak could also have a major affect on tourism, a big driver of the Italian economy.

Borders remain open: At present, Italy does not plan to close its borders, Deputy Health Minister Pierpaolo Sileri said. 

“I don’t think right now there is any reason to close the border, especially because the two areas are very well confined and we know exactly the two major outbreaks and all the people that we found all around Italy — which are very few — are coming from that area,” Sileri said.

Warning against panic and paranoia: “I think paranoia and anxiousness and panic will run much much more than the virus and we had problem with this in the last few weeks,” Sileri added. “This is the first epidemic event in era of social media, and this doesn’t help, absolutely doesn’t help.”

Italy outbreak spreading: There is evidence that the Italian outbreak has already spread beyond its borders, with Spain, Germany, Denmark and the UK reporting cases among travelers who had been in Italy. 

EU response: The need to respond to the health crisis is revealing — and fueling — longstanding rifts within the European Union

“There is a feeling in Italy that the numbers are high because the government has been aggressive in its policy response,” Mujtaba Rahman of the Eurasia Group told CNN. “There is also a feeling that other member states have lower numbers because they haven’t been aggressive.”



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