A woman wearing a protective mask
A woman wearing a protective mask walks on the observation deck of Marina Bay Sands hotel and casino in Singapore. Image Credit: Bloomberg

London: Coronavirus cases traced to a business meeting in Singapore have reached three European countries after causing infections in Asia, raising fears of a so-called super-spreader event.

A cluster of cases of the virus in France, Spain and the UK confirmed in the past day all appear to have links to a French ski resort where the infected people had contact with a British man who had just returned from the conference. The meeting was organised by an unidentified company in January and was attended by more than 90 foreigners.

The pattern raises similar concerns to the SARS outbreak of 2003, when a single infected doctor transmitted the disease to multiple people and it was then carried around the world. Malaysia and South Korea had already confirmed cases of the virus linked to the Singapore meeting, but the cluster of European cases further illustrates the challenge of containing the virus.

France's Health Ministry announced Saturday that a group of five Britons sharing a chalet in the Alps had been diagnosed with the virus, following their contact with a British man who attended the conference and tested positive after his return to the UK. Both the UK and Spain confirmed further cases Sunday of Britons who had contracted the virus in France, with one patient being treated in London and another in Mallorca.

"Based on current information, there is not evidence of effective and sustained community transmission," Olivia Lawe Davies, World Health Organization's regional communications manager, said on Feb. 5 after two cases in Asia linked to the confirmation were confirmed. "As countries are stepping up surveillance, the detection of more cases of local transmission can be expected."

At least 40 cases of the virus have been confirmed in Singapore, and concerns about further contagion is impacting local events. Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon Co. are among more than 70 international aviation companies that have withdrawn from Asia's largest aerospace and defense conference, which will be held in the city-state starting February 11.