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The German health authorities predicted a rapid spread of the new coronavirus through the country as at least 10 new cases were confirmed and the search for other infected people continued on Thursday.

“We are at the start of a coronavirus epidemic in Germany,’’ Health Minister Jens Spahn said in Berlin late on Wednesday.

Mr Spahn said he was increasingly of the view that the chance that this epidemic will pass Germany by will not be fulfilled.

Five new cases were reported in the most populous state of North-Rhine Westphalia, with the health authorities urgently seeking for any new cases.

Around 300 people who attended a carnival celebration earlier in the week in the town of Gangelt on the Dutch border were urged to report to the authorities.

And in the south-western state of Baden-Wuerrtemberg, the associates of a cluster of four infected people were being monitored.

The military authorities were checking troops after a soldier was found to be infected in the Koblenz area.

Denmark reported its first confirmed coronavirus case on Thursday, saying the patient was a man who had returned earlier this week from a ski holiday in northern Italy.

The man, his wife and son were all tested but only the man was diagnosed with the virus, the Danish Health Authority said.

The man, a journalist with broadcaster TV 2, has been isolated in his home together with his family.

“We are of course deeply shocked that what we thought was an unlikely event, is now a reality,’’ the reporter, Jacob Tage Ramlyng, wrote on Facebook.

Health authorities said the family were doing well and efforts were underway to trace his contacts.

The novel coronavirus causes the Covid-19 lung disease, which can be fatal, although most people who catch the bug experience mild symptoms or none at all.

In Italy, which has seen the worst outbreak so far in Europe, a top public health official said that the number of declared cases in the country currently at least 400 is probably exaggerated.

“There is a high chance of overestimating the positives from the way authorities have tested for the virus, Walter Ricciardi, a government advisor on the current crisis, says in an interview with Corriere della Sera.

Only about 190 have been confirmed by Italy’s National Health Institute (ISS), he said.

In Switzerland, an upcoming annual trade show of the Swiss watchmaking industry in Geneva was cancelled in view of the coronavirus, the organisers announced.

In contrast, two other Swiss trade shows that attract international attention, the Geneva International Motor Show and the Baselworld watch fair, are still set to start as scheduled in early March and late April, respectively.

Taiwan on Thursday issued an official travel warning for Italy, urging its citizens to avoid all non-essential travel there.

Passengers entering Taiwan from Italy will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine at home.

(dpa/NAN)

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