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Five European nations confirm new coronavirus cases as WHO claims disease has 'peaked' in China

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Five European nations have confirmed new coronavirus cases as authorities claimed the disease has now “peaked” in China.

In Austria, a local authority health spokeswoman said there were two cases declared in the Tyrol region.

Meanwhile, the Spanish health ministry confirmed that a woman in Barcelona who went to northern Italy recently has tested positive.

Switzerland and Croatia and the Italian island of Sicily have also confirmed their first cases.

Earlier on Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a press conference that they believed the outbreak has “peaked” in China.

A specialist team sent to China found that the epidemic peaked and plateaued between 23 January and 2 February.

Passengers wearing masks to prevent contacting the coronavirus walk outside Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, February 25, 2020.   REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Passengers wearing masks outside Seoul Railway Station in South Korea (Reuters)

However, the WHO warned that the world must prepare for a potential coronavirus pandemic. This is when an infectious diseases spreads easily in many parts of the world.

It has also warned that the coronavirus outbreak could be the feared “Disease X”.

Meanwhile, there are reports that hundreds of guests at a hotel in Tenerife were being tested after a confirmed case of coronavirus on the Canary Island.

The tests come after an Italian doctor tested positive for coronavirus.

Health experts have warned that time is running out to prevent a pandemic, while there has been fierce debate over whether or not it has already reached that stage.

SHANXI, CHINA - FEBRUARY 24: (CHINA MAINLAND OUT)The bank workers sanitize the cash to kill the novel coronavirus on 24th February, 2020 in Taiyuan,Shanxi,China.(Photo by TPG/Getty Images)
Bank workers sanitise cash to kill the coronavirus in Taiyuan, Shanxi, China (Getty)

The WHO’s director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told a press conference in Geneva on Monday there had been a steady decline in cases in the past two weeks.

A total of 77,658 cases of the virus, which causes respiratory disease Covid-19, have been declared in China, including 2,663 deaths.

Read more: Downing Street says UK prepared for all coronavirus eventualities

Dr Ghebreyesus said the WHO was “encouraged by the continued decline in cases in China”, but he warned that the virus has the potential to cause a pandemic.

"The past few weeks has demonstrated just how quickly a new virus can spread around the world and cause widespread fear and disruption," he said.

WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaks at a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland (Reuters)

“For the moment we're not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus."

In February 2018, the WHO said it was preparing for an unknown epidemic, dubbed “Disease X” by health officials.

Professor Marion Koopmans, a professor of viroscience at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, said the spread of Covid-19 is "rapidly becoming the first true pandemic challenge that fits the Disease X category".

Elsewhere, hundreds of tourists at a hotel in Tenerife in the Canary Islands were reportedly being tested for coronavirus.

Spain’s El Pais newspaper said guests are being quarantined and tests are being carried out in the resort of Adeje, which is popular with Britons.

It comes after an Italian tourist was admitted to hospital on the island and has since tested positive for Covid-19.

A British guest at the H10 Costa Adeje Palace in Tenerife, who did not want to be named, told Sky News: "All we have been told is to stay in our rooms."

There have been more than 1,200 cases in about 30 other countries and more than 20 deaths. Four more deaths were reported in Italy on Monday, raising its total to seven.

Police manned checkpoints around a dozen quarantined northern towns in Italy, where there have been 229 cases.

Austria temporarily halted rail traffic across its border with Italy and Slovenia and Croatia, popular getaways for Italians, were holding crisis meetings.

Stock markets around the world have plunged in reaction to the spread of the virus.

A group of Chinese tourists in Piazza del Santo wears protective masks in Padua, Italy, on February 24, 2020. More than 220 people were infected by Covid-19 in Italy, with 6 people deaths. Italy is at the third place in the world ranking as infected countries, after China e South Korea. Italy has disposed the closure of schools, university, pubs and imposed a stop to religious functions in Lombardia and Veneto regions.  (Photo by Roberto Silvino/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A tourist in Piazza del Santo in Padua, Italy, wears a protective mask (Getty)

China reported 508 new cases and another 71 deaths on Tuesday, 68 of them in the central city of Wuhan, where the epidemic was first detected in December.

Read more: Cruise ship coronavirus patients post pictures from hospital

South Korea now has the second-most cases in the world with 893 and has had a near 15-fold increase in reported infections in a week, with 60 new cases reported on Tuesday.

As South Korea reported its eighth fatality, health workers continued to find batches in the south-eastern city of Daegu and nearby areas, where panic has brought towns to a standstill.

In Iran, schools were closed for a second day, and daily sanitising of public buses and the Tehran metro, which is used by some three million people a day, has started.

Iraq and Afghanistan closed their borders with Iran in an effort to stop the further spread while Bahrain announced a 48-hour suspension of flights to and from Dubai, the world's busiest international airport.

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