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Coronavirus: Italian train blocked at Austria’s Brenner Pass

Austria has stopped a Venice-Monaco Eurocity train with 300 passengers on board, after the explosion of the number of Coronavirus infections in Italy.

Published: February 24, 2020, 5:40 am

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    For some hours, in fact, Austria and Romania have been evaluating the possibility of closing the land borders with Italy by arranging quarantine for all Italians from the “affected regions”.

    Veneto and Lombardy are the two regions where, since Friday, the highest number of infectious episodes have been recorded. In anticipation of the data released in the late afternoon by Civil Protection and, in order to stem the spread of the epidemic, the first restrictive measures have already been issued by foreign authorities against Italians traveling to and from a foreign country.

    International traffic on the Brenner axis was thus blocked following a double suspected case of coronavirus on board an international train bound for Munich from Venice Saint Lucia. There were two Eurocity trains stopped by the Austrian authorities at the Brenner station – the EC 86 and the EC 1288 both with final destination Muenchen Hbf.

    Two German women with fever traveled on board the first train, the main symptom of Covid-19. The travelers were dropped off at Verona Porta Nuova but the Italian State Railways, which still isolated part of the train, informed the staff of the Austrian railways OeBB which in turn alerted the coordination center of the Ministry of the Interior of Vienna.

    Upon arrival at Brenner at 19.09, with a delay of about 80 minutes, Eurocity 86 was stopped. About forty minutes later the EC 1288 arrived and that too was stopped. The Austrian railways have stopped traveling between Innsbruck and the Brenner (and vice versa) with the trains that are stopped at the Steinach am Brenner station. The block also affects the Espresso D408 Nice-Moscow.

    Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said he was “in close contact with the governor of Tyrol, Guenther Platter on how to proceed”.

    Romania has also decided to protect itself by the compulsory quarantine for all people from Lombardy and Veneto. The Ministry of Health of Bucharest communicated the restrictive measure with a press release in the late afternoon on Sunday. Strict provisions were also put in place at Bucharest airport. Passengers from direct and non-direct flights from Italy will first be subjected to a questionnaire and medical investigation.

    The restrictive measures were also lauded by Marine Le Pen. “We must at all costs raise the level of legislation to the level of danger that an epidemic like that of Coronavirus can represent. And there is also a serious concern about our capacity in terms of drugs and masks,” Le Pen said in an interview with Le Grand Jury on Sunday.

    She received the total approval of the secretary of the League, Matteo Salvini. “It is good to ask for controls on the border with Italy. A month ago, on January 31, I asked that Italy close, control, limit and quarantine those who come from China.[…] We were told that we were rascals and alarmists, now we have to limit the damage. It seems only fair that others do what Italy did not do weeks ago.”

    The South China Morning Post pointed out that new Chinese quarantine agreements came after doctors, at the forefront of the battle against the epidemic, advised that healed patients could still carry the virus and therefore still be contagious. Zhao Jianping, a doctor in charge of an operational team in Hubei, explained that there have been cases where patients have tested positive after they appear to have recovered.

    “All of this is very dangerous. Where can those patients be placed? You can’t send them home because they could infect others, but you can’t even put them in the hospital because resources are limited.”

    It remains to be seen whether what has been found can be linked to a flaw in the Chinese health system, with patients marked for recovered when they were still infected, or if such a condition is attributable to a new and particular property of the Coronavirus.

    Xiang Nijuan, a researcher from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, explained to CCTV that monitoring of those who had close contact with patients should be extended to a wider pool of people, for the reason explained above.

    By way of example, in the city of Chengdu, a patient discharged on February 10 after meeting the standard for recovery, was brought back to the hospital nine days later, when during a check he tested positive for the virus again. A similar case occurred in Changde, Hunnan, where a woman tested positive on February 9, five days after leaving quarantine.

    Cai Weiping, head of the infectious diseases department of hospital no. 8 of Guanzhou, therefore released an important statement: “It may be that there are still viruses or fragments of viral genes in discharged patients. It is not yet certain whether they are contagious or not. This is a new pathogen and we have yet to understand its dynamics.”

    Infected patients in China can only be discharged if they are able to meet four criteria: normal body temperature for more than three days, respiratory symptoms that improve significantly, Cat imaging of the chest showing significant improvement in the lungs and negative results in two tests of nucleic acid at least one day apart.

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