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Greece on Heightened Alert for Coronavirus After Italy Infections

Greece is intensifying precautionary measures after the coronavirus spread to neighboring Italy, leaving behind six dead and at least 219 people infected.

Dozens of countries are now warning against travel to Italy, with some examining the suspension of flights.

The Greek Health Ministry held an emergency meeting on Sunday with health officials to examine actions and reassess risk after the return this week from Italy of 10 Greek high schools which were on their annual trips.

The minister decided not to take any additional measures but to further boost awareness-raising efforts as well as ensure readiness on behalf of Greek health authorities.

Sunday’s emergency meeting did decide to cancel all student trips planned for Italy.

“All the necessary measures have been taken to protect public health in the country,” said Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias, calling for “calm, seriousness and professionalism”.

On Monday Minister Kikilias met with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Maximos Mansion and briefed him on Sunday’s emergency meeting of health officials. Also present at Monday’s meeting were the ministers of Education Niki Kerameus, Migration Notis Mitarakis, Interior Takis Theodorikakos and Citizens’ Protection Michalis Chrysochoidis.

More than 2,300 people have died so far and over 76,000 have been infected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Meanwhile, AEGEAN Airlines announced that it would not be cancelling its flights to Italy for the time being.

“We remain in contact with the competent authorities for any further action that may be necessary,” the company said, adding however, that passengers wishing to postpone travel arrangements to any destination on its network can do so until March 20 without being charged rebooking fees.

At the same time, the pandemic has taken a toll on air travel with airlines expected to lose some 29 billion dollars, IATA said this week. Airline traffic has already dropped 4.7 percent this year. According to the New York Times, in three weeks -from January 23 to February 13- the number of daily flights to and from China plunged to 2,004 from 15,072.

Global stock markets, meanwhile, took a tumble after the news in Italy.

Greek tourism and travel authorities as well as shipping executives expect the Covid-19 virus to inevitably take a toll, with the Greek Shipowners Union urging the shipping ministers of Greece, Malta, Panama, Liberia, the Bahamas and the Marshall Islands to declare the China epidemic a “Force Majeure” in efforts to restrict the impact on the sector.

In relevant news, Iran authorities are being accused of covering up the extent of the Covid-19 impact, which according to media reports has led to at least 50 fatalities so far.

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