Germany in warning over a virus epidemic

Germany's health minister says the country is at the beginning of a coronavirus epidemic

The man's wife, who works in a kindergarten, was also confirmed to have contracted the virus. A soldier in the German air force who had contact with the hospitalized man also has tested positive, Col. Rainer Volb, acting head of the German military hospital in Koblenz.

The cases brought Germany's total to 21. The government said late Wednesday in a statement it would establish an emergency task force regarding the coronavirus outbreak.

"We are at the beginning of a coronavirus epidemic in Germany,” Health Minister Jens Spahn told reporters.

The head of Cologne's health department, Johannes Niessen, said the man had come into contact with 41 people, including several doctors and nurses, at least one of whom was showing symptoms of illness.

Stephan Pusch, who heads the district administration in Heinsberg, where the case occurred, said Wednesday that schools and kindergartens in the area would remain shut until Monday. He urged people who display symptoms of illness to stay at home and contact their doctors by phone.

In a sign of growing fears over the economic impact of the outbreak that has so far centered mainly on Asia, German airline Lufthansa said it was suspending recruitment of new staff, offering existing employees unpaid leave and expanding options for part-time work.

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Full AP coverage of the virus outbreak can be found here: https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak