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Switzerland cancels events and Germany puts town under quarantine as coronavirus spreads across Europe

February 28, 2020, 10:34 AM UTC

Switzerland canceled large events as Europe steps up measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Public and private gatherings with more than 1,000 people won’t be allowed until March 15, the Swiss government said on Friday. The next big event in the country is the Geneva Motor Show, which was set to open to the public on March 5.

The move comes alongside a German quarantine of 1,000 people as European authorities struggle to contain the virus and project an image of business as usual. French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte drank coffee together in a bar in Naples on Thursday, calling for European cooperation and rejecting calls for suspending the Schengen Treaty that allows for border-free travel within the European Union.

Authorities in the German municipality of Heinsberg, near the Dutch border, asked people who came into contact with a married couple with the disease to stay at home, spokesman Ulrich Hollwitz said by phone on Friday. The pair had attended a Carnival event in mid-February with about 400 people, and the isolation affects them and their family and friends, according to Bild newspaper.

Cases in Italy soared to 650 on Thursday from 400 a day earlier, bringing the European total to more than 700. German infections rose to 48 on Friday morning, while a first case in the Netherlands was confirmed on Thursday evening. The Dutch patient, who is being kept in isolation, recently visited Italy’s Lombardy region. Globally, there are more than 83,000 cases.

A crisis task force in Germany will meet on Friday afternoon in Berlin to discuss next steps, including the possibility of canceling the ITB tourism trade fair. EasyJet Plc said it’s planning to cancel flights as demand slows for travel, particularly to Italy.

Europe’s largest economy is looking at a range of measures to protect its key export sector and address the damage from a slowdown stemming from the spread of the coronavirus. The benchmark DAX Index lost 4.8% at 10:16 a.m. central European time on Friday.

The government’s plans would seek to improve conditions for doing business, including reducing the tax burden on companies and boosting tax relief for digital investment, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said Thursday in Berlin, adding that Germany is in “a period of growing uncertainty” and couldn’t rule out cuts to growth forecasts.

The fallout looks to be spreading, compounding a broader industrial slump. BASF SE on Friday warned of a possible second annual profit drop due to the impact of the coronavirus and an ongoing automotive slump.

Germany is monitoring transport links by air, sea and land and will ask international travelers to fill in landing cards stating where else they’ve traveled, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said on Thursday in Berlin.

“The situation has clearly deteriorated,” he said. “The term ‘beginning of an epidemic’ means that the number of cases will increase.”

With assistance from Ania Nussbaum, Marco Bertacche, Joost Akkermans and Jan Dahinten.

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