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Coronavirus cases on the rise across Europe and beyond

CORONAVIRUS continued to spread today, with the Netherlands reporting its first death while Serbia, Slovakia and Cameroon saw their first cases.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he expected the country to move to its highest alert level “in the coming days” as health authorities reported 577 confirmed French cases and nine deaths.

Serbia’s first case involved a man who had recently visited Budapest in Hungary, while Slovakia’s had recently returned from Venice.

Italy is the hardest-hit European country so far with over 3,800 infections and 148 deaths. Hundreds of cases have been confirmed in Germany, Spain and Belgium.

Cameroon’s first victim is a French citizen who arrived there on February 24.

Thailand has designated Italy, South Korea, China, Macao, Hong Kong and Iran “dangerous communicable disease areas” and barred ships from docking because of the presence of passengers from these nations.

Hungary said it was suspending admission for asylum-seekers to transit zones on the Serbian border where they file claims, on the grounds that they may bring coronavirus in. 

The ruling Fidesz Party’s comms director Istvan Hollik used the virus to double down on Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s anti-immigration agenda, saying: “The current wave of migrants is not a threat only with the direct risk of terrorism.

“Most of the illegal migrants are arriving from territories like Iran, which is also a focal point of the coronavirus.

“We cannot put at risk the security of the Hungarian people, so we continue to say ‘no’ to immigration and we protect the Hungarian borders.”

Four cases of the new virus have been identified in Hungary thus far, including a pair of Iranian students who recently visited their homeland.

But human rights group the Hungarian Helsinki Committee said the transit zone measures made no sense when “no coronavirus testing is carried on travellers arriving from Serbia at the border crossing a few hundreds yards from the transit zone at Roszke” and accused Fidesz of running a “hate campaign demonising refugees.”

Fear of coronavirus has prompted racist attacks in a number of European countries, from Britain to Ukraine. 

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