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Macron scraps engagements to focus on outbreak as cases in Europe surge

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Fears: People wearing protective masks on a street in Kuwait City. Photo: getty images

Fears: People wearing protective masks on a street in Kuwait City. Photo: getty images

AFP via Getty Images

Fears: People wearing protective masks on a street in Kuwait City. Photo: getty images

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, has cancelled public engagements to focus on the country's coronavirus response as cases in Europe surged by more than 40pc.

The number of infections exceeded 2,200 yesterday, with 18 out of 27 EU countries reporting cases. At least 56 EU citizens have died, the vast majority in Italy, from the disease known as Covid-19.

Officials from the Élysée Palace said Mr Macron was cancelling two planned events this week "to make sure he is available to manage the situation".

France has recorded 130 cases of Covid-19 and local media have reported that four people have now died from the disease, including two in a hospital in Compiegne, a city in the north.

Meanwhile in Paris, the Louvre museum remained closed for the second day after staff walked out on Sunday amid concerns that the virus could circulate among international tourists flocking to the cultural landmark.

But it is Italy that continues to bear the brunt of Europe's coronavirus outbreak. Cases have rocketed in the past 24 hours, jumping by well over 50pc, despite widespread lockdowns in more than a dozen towns in the Lombardy region.

As of yesterday evening, 1,835 people had tested positive for Covid-19, including 52 fatalities. But 150 people have recovered, according to Angelo Borrelli, the country's emergency commissioner for coronavirus.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), maintained he had "confidence" in the Italian response to the disease.

"We see a very clear political commitment. Surveillance has now been boosted. We have confidence in Italy and we believe they can contain the virus," he said.

Germany also reported a spike in cases yesterday, with 21 new infections diagnosed, while Portugal and Andorra have confirmed their first infections. Cases have also been reported across Eastern Europe, with Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Georgia also confirming the presence of the coronavirus. The Russian capital, Moscow, also reported its first case.

The European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) has set the threat level across Europe as moderate to high and said it expected more countries to report new cases.

But the rise in European cases comes as the epidemic continues to slow down in China - there were nine times more Covid-19 cases outside China than inside the country in the past 24 hours, where only 206 new cases were reported. This is the lowest daily total since January 22.

Nearly 90,000 people worldwide have picked up the infection, including 3,000 fatalities. However, Dr Tedros said it was necessary to keep the outbreak in "perspective".

He stressed that 81pc of the cases outside China were in just four countries. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent