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WHO Declares Coronavirus Pandemic As Russia Cancels More Flights To Europe

By RFE/RL March 11, 2020

Russia is canceling flights to many European destinations due to fears of the new coronavirus spreading as the World Health Organization (WHO) designates the outbreak a pandemic.

"WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction," WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a briefing on March 11 in Geneva.

It's the first respiratory illness to be named a pandemic, Tedros added, saying that the spread of COVID-19 had reached 114 countries, infected more than 118,000 people, and led to 4,291 deaths.

He said the declaration "doesn't change what countries should do" to vigorously contain the virus.

"We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear," Tedros said.

Meanwhile, Russian state-owned airline Aeroflot announced the same day that it will cancel flights to 18 European cities in four countries starting on March 13 and running until the end of April.

The four countries are Italy, Spain, France, and Germany, each of which have more than 1,000 reported cases of the virus.

The issuing of travel visas to Italians has also been suspended as of March 13, excluding business, humanitarian, diplomatic, and service visas.

Italy, a top destination for Russian tourists, has been among the worst-hit countries in the world, with more than 12,400 reported cases of the new coronavirus and 827 deaths.

Russia has only about 26 confirmed cases, including six that were confirmed in Moscow on March 11. Several of those individuals contracted the disease while traveling in Italy.

Before the WHO briefing, Italy and Britain announced multibillion-dollar spending plans to fight the disease and the United States said it was considering new steps.

Meanwhile, Moldova confirmed its fourth virus case as did Armenia. Albania recorded the first coronavirus death in the Western Balkans and has 11 known cases.

The U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on March 11 said the number of virus deaths in the country reached 31 and the number of confirmed cases exceeded 1,000.

President Donald Trump is considering declaring a national emergency to unleash funds for the federal government's response to the fast-spreading virus outbreak, a source familiar with the matter told Politico. Up to $40 billion could be freed up if the declaration is made.

U.S. lawmakers and health officials have also set up containment zones and quarantine areas.

Some governors and other leaders have banned certain large public gatherings. In Washington, the hardest-hit state, certain gatherings of more than 250 people have been banned.

With reporting by Politico, Reuters, AP, and AFP

Source: flights-to-europe-through-april-to-stop- coronavirus/30482162.html

Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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