Albania shuts schools after first virus cases

By: AFP      Published: 03:46 PM, 9 Mar, 2020
Albania shuts schools after first virus cases

Albania will close schools and ban public gatherings for two weeks after doctors confirmed the first two cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, the prime minister said.

Edi Rama said all gatherings, including sports events, would be cancelled in a bid to contain the virus.  Flights between Albania and northern Italy -- Europe's main virus hotspot -- have also been cancelled until April 3, he said at an emergency cabinet meeting.

The Albanian patients are a man who returned from Italy last month and his father, the health ministry said. "A 54-year-old man and his 28-year-old son who returned by car from Florence tested positive for COVID-19," a ministry statement said.

The two men have been hospitalised in the capital Tirana and are in stable condition, it added.  Italy is battling the world's second-most deadly virus outbreak after China and has imposed a virtual lockdown on the north of the country.

Albania, which lies just across the Adriatic sea and has a huge diaspora in Italy, joins four other Western Balkan states with confirmed virus cases. A total of 17 others have been infected in Croatia, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Serbia.

More than half of the cases are in Croatia, though the region has not reported any deaths. Worldwide roughly 110,00 people have been infected and more than 3,800 have died from the virus, the vast majority in China where it first emerged late last year.

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