European Parliament speaker self-isolates after Italy visit

Brussels (AFP) –


European Parliament speaker David Sassoli said Tuesday he had gone into self-isolation in his Brussels residence for two weeks after visiting his virus-struck native Italy.

Sassoli, 63, said in a statement his decision was a "precaution" following the Italian government's announcement it was locking down all of the country to try to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

"COVID-19 requires responsibility and prudence from everybody," he said.

There was no indication he was infected. His aides said he had visited Rome last week -- when the capital was not yet under what were then regional lock-down measures -- and was not showing any COVID-19 symptoms.

The virus has been detected among a handful of EU staff, including at the European Council and the European Defence Agency. NATO headquarters, located on the outskirts of Brussels, has also reported its first confirmed case.

The European Parliament was on Tuesday holding a truncated plenary session in Brussels instead of the usual site in the French city of Strasbourg because of worries over the new coronavirus.

Italy is the hardest-hit country in the European Union. On Monday the government in Rome ordered unprecedented quarantine measures for the entire population of 60 million, making it the first country to impose such a step nationwide.