February 25, 2020 / 12:32 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 4-Austria seals off Innsbruck hotel after reporting first two coronavirus cases

* Young Italian couple are first to test positive in Austria

* Mountainous Tyrol is vital corridor between Italy, Germany

* Austria closed north-south rail line over suspected cases

* Couple recently drove to Tyrol from Bergamo in Lombardy (Adds Innsbruck hotel sealed off)

By Francois Murphy

VIENNA, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Austria reported its first two cases of coronavirus on Tuesday and sealed off a hotel in the Alpine tourist hub of Innsbruck where one of the infected people works, in an effort to contain the outbreak.

The infected people are an Italian couple, both aged 24, who last week visited their home town of Bergamo in Lombardy, northern Italy, one of the regions worst affected by the outbreak, before returning to Innsbruck, officials said.

The regional government in Tyrol said the woman works as a receptionist at the hotel. Nobody is now being allowed in or out of the building while authorities check who has been in contact with her.

“We are not describing it as locking them in but as an isolation,” a spokesman for Tyrol’s Governor Guenther Platter said, declining to name the hotel.

A city source confirmed media reports that it was the Grand Hotel Europa, which has 108 rooms. It did not answer repeated telephone calls.

“Safety and prevention are our top priorities. We are taking all necessary measures in those areas,” Platter said.

Neighbouring Italy has become a frontline in the global outbreak of the virus, with 280 cases and 10 deaths, most in Lombardy and nearby Veneto.

On Sunday night Austria shut down rail travel between Germany and Italy by denying entry to a train from Venice because of two suspected coronavirus cases among about 300 passengers. The train was only let through when those two passengers’ tests came back negative.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the procedure would be repeated if others suspected of carrying the virus arrived at Austria’s borders.

Tyrol is a vital transport corridor between Italy and Germany, and includes the very busy Brenner Pass. More than half the freight crossing the Alps passes through Austria.

The new coronavirus has killed more than 2,600 people, most in China, and spread to 29 other countries, according to a Reuters tally. The number of confirmed cases globally has risen above 80,000. (Addiitonal reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Writing by Francois Murphy; editing by John Stonestreet and Angus MacSwan)

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