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Europe uses emergency, army options

By JULIAN SHEA and JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily | Updated: 2020-03-27 09:30

An Italian patient infected with coronavirus arrives at the Helios hospital in Leipzig, Germany, on Wednesday. HENDRIK SCHMIDT/AFP

Spain says isolation is only alternative; France enlists military to fight outbreak

Spain on Thursday decided to extend its state of emergency that has allowed it to impose a national lockdown by two weeks, as the new infections from the novel coronavirus continued to rise.

Spain's Parliament approved the extension of the emergency for a further 15 days, until April 12, following a mammoth debate.

"It is not easy to extend the state of emergency," Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in Parliament. "I am convinced the only efficient option against the virus is social isolation."

Spain, the second worst-hit country after Italy, registered 655 fatalities over the past 24 hours-down from over 700 on Wednesday-the health ministry said on Thursday. The country had reported 56,188 confirmed cases including 8,578 new infections, and 4,089 deaths by Thursday.

Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo became the third cabinet member to test positive for the virus, but the government said she was doing well.

The virus continues to spread across Europe, as the continent reported 204,930 cases and 11,810 deaths by Wednesday, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

In Italy, the pandemic has claimed 7,503 lives and infected 74,386 people, Italian authorities said on Wednesday.

Italy's Emergency Commissioner and Civil Protection Chief Angelo Borrelli and his team are now self-isolating after he had to cancel his daily media conference on Wednesday as a result of exhibiting symptoms of fever.

'European spirit'

In Germany, hospitals on Tuesday welcomed their first novel coronavirus patients from Italy, where the health system has been overwhelmed and more people have died than in any country.

The first group of six Italian patients arrived at Leipzig airport in Saxony, and the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia announced plans to take 10 Italian patients during the coming days.

"We need solidarity across borders in Europe," said Armin Laschet, the state premier. "We want to preserve the European spirit."

France has reported 25,233 cases of infection and 1,331 deaths as of Wednesday, Director General of Health Jerome Salomon said.

Declaring a war against "an invisible enemy," French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday announced an army operation "Resilience" to back the fight against the virus.

"We are at war and faced with the peak of the epidemic which is before us, so I decided to launch the operation Resilience," Macron said on the sidelines of a visit to a military field hospital in Mulhouse, eastern France.

The operation will focus on helping the population and supporting public services to cope with the epidemic, in France's mainland and overseas, notably in health, logistics and protection, he added.

In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised the country's public after 405,000 people volunteered to help the National Health Service in its efforts to fight the outbreak.

The country reported 9,529 infections and 463 deaths as of Wednesday, according to health authorities.

The response, within 24 hours of the appeal being launched, far exceeded the target figure of 250,000, as Johnson said he thought the country was "coping very well indeed" under uniquely challenging circumstances.

He also said that Chancellor Rishi Sunak was scheduled to announce economic measures to help Britain's self-employed workers on Thursday, to catch up with other sectors of the country's workforce.

Xinhua and agencies contributed to this story.

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