Thousands stuck on cruise ship in Italy over coronavirus fears
Around 7,000 people have been kept on a cruise ship in Italy for nearly a day as one passenger is checked for a possible infection.
It comes as European countries stepped up efforts on Thursday to contain the coronavirus sweeping through central China.
Italian health authorities did not allow 6,000 passengers and 1,000 crew aboard a cruise ship docked north of Rome to get off after a passenger from Macao came down with flu-like symptoms.
The Costa Crociere cruise line said the 54-year-old woman and her partner, who had no symptoms, were immediately put into isolation Wednesday and the case reported to Italian maritime authorities.
Italian Coastguard commander Vincenzo Leone said: "All the planned mechanisms were activated. Health authorities are on board, doing checks.
"The situation is under control. There's a security cordon on the dock."
The Costa Smeralda was sailing from Majorca in Spain's Balearic Islands, to Civitavecchia on a week-long Mediterranean cruise.
Later on Thursday, just over 1,000 passengers were allowed off the ship for a walk through sunny Rome.
Meanwhile, a chartered plane has been sent to evacuate hundreds of European citizens from China as more commercial flights were scrapped and Russia closed its land border with China.
An A380 evacuation flight took off on Thursday morning from a former Portuguese military airport at Beja, 120 miles south-east of Lisbon, carrying just its pilots and crew.
Captain Antonios Efthymiou said the flight was going first to Paris to pick up a team of doctors and extra crew, before heading to Hanoi and then China.
He told Portuguese media it would bring back about 350 Europeans. He said the crew would take special medical precautions but did not elaborate.
China has reported 170 deaths and at least 7,800 infections have been confirmed worldwide from the virus that emerged last month in the central city of Wuhan.
In Europe, there have been 10 confirmed cases of the virus so far – five in France, four in Germany and one in Finland.
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin issued a decree ordering the temporary closure of the country's border with China, which extends for 2,600 miles.
In addition, all train traffic between the two countries, except for one train connecting Moscow and Beijing, was stopped on Thursday.
The Czech Republic announced it was stopping issuing visas to Chinese citizens due to the outbreak.
More than 600,000 Chinese tourists are estimated to have visited the Czech Republic last year, especially its capital city of Prague.
On the retail front, Swedish furniture and home goods retailer IKEA announced all its stores in mainland China would remain closed to protect customers and staff from the outbreak.
European airlines including Air France, Scandinavian Airlines, Iberia and Finnair announced halts in services to China, all citing efforts "to protect the health and security of customers and staff."
Those announcements followed earlier moves to halt or reduce flights to China by other European airlines including British Airways, Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Swiss and KLM.