The Dutch government is considering evacuating the 20 or so Dutch nationals who live in Wuhan in China, the centre of the coronavirus outbreak.
So far some 2,700 people have been diagnosed with the disease, mostly in China, and 81 people have died.
Talks are under way with other EU member states and the Chinese authorities and the group of Dutch expats in the province have been briefed by embassy staff in Beijing, Dutch media report.
Damen Shipyards has also recalled three Dutch nationals working at a wharf in the Chinese province of Hubei, where Wuhan is located. There are four more Damen staffers working at another wharf in Hunan province.
Airline KLM has also said that travellers who have booked flights to China may cancel their tickets without cost. The offer applies to flights booked up to February 29.
A school exchange involving 20 Chinese pupils with a school in Roermond has also been cancelled because of the coronavirus scare.
The Netherlands must take into account the fact that some people may become ill with the coronavirus, given it has now been identified in Europe, a senior Dutch public health official has told the Telegraaf.
‘In that sense, we are entirely dependent on how other countries deal with cases of infection,’ Jaap van Dissel, director of the infectious diseases unit at the RIVM public health agency is quoted as saying.
There have been several cases of the virus in France and one suspected case in Austria. Other cases have been identified in the US, Canada and Australia.
Nevertheless, there is no reason to panic, Van Dissel told the Telegraaf. ‘Thanks to earlier outbreaks, such as Mexican flu, we have protocols to prevent disease spreading,’ he said. ‘And if the virus does pop up here, it will probably be confined to a handful of cases.’
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