7,000 stuck on cruise ship off Italian coast amid coronavirus concerns

About 7,000 people are being held on an Italian cruise ship after a woman on board fell ill amid fears of the deadly new coronavirus outbreak that originated in China.

The Costa Smeralda Vessel is currently being held off the coast, 35 miles north of Rome.

The 54-year-old woman, who reportedly came down with a fever and other flu-like symptoms, was put into isolation along with her husband. The couple was from Macao, an autonomous region on the south coast of China.

"All the planned mechanisms were activated," Italian Coast Guard Cmdr. Vincenzo Leone said at the port of Civitavecchia. "Health authorities are on board, doing checks. The situation is under control. There's a security cordon on the dock."

At this time, roughly 6,000 passengers and 1,000 crew members will not be allowed to leave until the woman's test results return. The results are due back this afternoon.

The ship was sailing from Mallorca, Spain, to Civitavecchia on a weeklong Mediterranean cruise. Later Thursday, just over 1,000 passengers were allowed off the ship for a walk through sunny Rome.

This comes after the World Health Organization held an emergency meeting Thursday morning to decide whether to declare the outbreak a public health emergency.

Meanwhile, the number of cases is growing worldwide, with at least 170 deaths and more than 7,800 people affected.

What is coronavirus? What US health officials know about outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China

There have been six confirmed cases in the U.S. so far, including the first spread from person to person.

President Donald Trump has also created a task force to tackle the coronavirus, with its team meeting daily.

Hundreds of Americans remain quarantined at an Air Force base in California after being evacuated from China amid the coronavirus outbreak.

European countries also stepped up efforts to contain the virus, sending a chartered plane there to evacuate hundreds of citizens, scrapping more commercial flights to Chinese destinations, and closing Russia's long border with China.

An A380 evacuation flight took off Thursday morning from a former Portuguese military airport at Beja, southeast of Lisbon, carrying just its pilots and crew.

Captain Antonios Efthymiou said the flight was going first to Paris, to pick up a team of doctors and extra crew, before heading to Hanoi and then China. He told Portuguese media it would bring back about 350 Europeans. He said the crew would take special medical precautions but did not elaborate.

In Europe, there have been just 10 confirmed cases of the virus so far: five in France, four in Germany and one in Finland.

In Moscow, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin issued a decree ordering the temporary closure of the country's border with China, which extends for 2,600 miles. In addition, all train traffic between the two countries, except for one train connecting Moscow and Beijing, was stopped Thursday.

Britain said its delayed repatriation flight for 200 U.K. citizens in Wuhan would leave there on Friday, with the returning Britons quarantined for 14 days upon arrival. The U.K.-government chartered plane had been due to return earlier but it was delayed because permissions from the Chinese government had not come through.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)
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