VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria has halted all train services with Italy that go via the Brenner Pass to prevent further spread of the coronavirus, a spokesman for train operator OBB said on Sunday.
“Passenger train traffic with Italy via the Brenner Pass has been suspended in both directions,” the spokesman said.
The pass across the Alps is an important and frequently congested passenger train route between Italy, Austria and Germany.
Shortly before the suspension was announced, Austria’s government said it had denied entry to a train bound for Munich, Germany, from Venice, Italy, on suspicion that two travelers might be infected with the coronavirus.
The Italian State Railways had informed Austria’s OBB that there were two people with fever symptoms on board, the interior ministry said in a statement.
The train was now waiting at the Brenner Pass on Italian territory. “The further procedure is currently being discussed together with the Italian authorities,” the statement said.
It is unclear when the train will be able to continue its journey, the OBB spokesman said. It is carrying around 300 passengers, mostly Austrians and Germans, news agency APA said.
Italy is battling with an explosion of coronavirus cases, which rose on Saturday to more than 150, with three deaths. The government has closed off the worst-hit areas in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto.
Austria’s interior minister Karl Nehammer said earlier on Sunday that a coronavirus task force will meet on Monday to discuss whether to introduce border controls with Italy.
Such border controls could be established within an hour, said General Franz Lang, who is responsible for public security.
There have been 181 suspected coronavirus cases in Austria, with none confirmed, according to the interior minister.
Peter Kaiser, governor of the province of Carinthia which borders Northern Italy, advised against traveling to Italy on Sunday.
Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Giles Elgood, Jan Harvey and Daniel Wallis