'We have to expect cases': Germany ramps up preparations for coronavirus

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'We have to expect cases': Germany ramps up preparations for coronavirus
Warning signs about the coronavirus at Tegel airport in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Health officials are preparing for the arrival of the coronavirus in Germany, as the government urged citizens to avoid "unnecessary trips" to China amid fears over the spread of the epidemic.


It came after a suspected case was detected in Berlin on Sunday.  A woman, who had recently travelled back from China, had presented at a city hospital with breathing difficulties.

She was placed in an isolation ward. However, the test results for coronavirus came back negative.

Officials say they are ready for any potential outbreak in Germany.

"Germany is well prepared for a pandemic," said a spokesperson for Health Minister Jens Spahn, reported Welt.
"There are clear pandemic plans, regular exercises and the resources to react quickly and effectively. We are constantly coordinating with all relevant national and international authorities on the situation".
Overall, the risk to the health of the population in Germany is relatively low, experts say. "For all we know, the coronavirus is very difficult to transmit from person to person. and the course of the disease is relatively moderate," said the spokesperson.
Yet health departments are on standby.
"We have to expect that we will get cases in Germany and we have to prepare for this throughout the entire health system," virologist Christian Drosten told Deutschlandfunk radio last week.
The Charité hospital in Berlin has already "ramped up all test systems" in order to be able to quickly detect a coronavirus infection, said Drosten.
He warned that health authorities must "take the virus very seriously".
Awareness campaigns in airports

On Sunday, Berlin started an awareness campaign at the airports Tegel and Schönefeld.

Airport employees have hung up posters with information about the coronavirus and distributed flyers to arriving and departing passengers.

The flyers, in German, English and Chinese, describe the symptoms and recommend travellers take action.

Anyone who arrives at an airport with suspected symptoms should contact a member of staff.

Airport workers in Frankfurt and other German airports are also preparing themselves for a possible emergency.

There are no direct flights from the most severely affected Chinese city of Wuhan to Germany.

Three cases of coronavirus in France were confirmed on Friday - two in Paris and one in Bordeaux - marking the first cases reported in Europe.
Evacuating citizens
It came as the government said it was considering evacuating citizens from Wuhan, the city at the centre of the outbreak.
"Travellers should consider delaying or cancelling any unnecessary trips to China," Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told a press conference in the capital.
Maas added that the government was "considering a possible evacuation of all willing German citizens" from Wuhan, in Hubei province where the coronavirus first emerged.
The number of German citizens currently in the city was estimated to be "in double figures", he said.
The respiratory virus has infected thousands and killed 81 since it first appeared at a fish and poultry market in the metropolis of Wuhan last December.
The Chinese government has sealed off Wuhan and neighbouring cities, effectively trapping tens of millions of people – including thousands of foreigners – in a bid to contain the spread of the virus.
Its ability to spread appears to be "getting stronger" though it is "not as powerful as SARS", top Chinese health officials said.
Both France and the United States have announced flights to evacuate personnel and citizens trapped at the epicentre of the outbreak.
Germany is yet to record a confirmed case of the coronavirus on its soil, though there have been several suspected cases.
Maas said the German government was holding crisis talks with health experts to discuss the epidemic.
What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of the virus include a cough, headache, fatigue, fever, aching and difficulty breathing.

It is primarily spread through airborne contact or contact with contaminated objects.

Its incubation period is two to 14 days, with an average of seven days.



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