Italy becomes worst affected country by coronavirus in Europe

A pharmacist wearing a health mask speaks to a customer at the entrance of a pharmacy in the Codogno, in Lodi, northern Italy. The emergency room of Codogno hospital, where several cases of coronavirus positive patients are hospitalized, will be closed at least until 02 March. Reports state a woman of Milan's Lombardy region died of disease COVIDF-19 on 22 February becoming the second death in Italy of coronavirus after a man died on 21 February. EPA-EFE/MATTEO CORNER

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Italy is taking extraordinary measures after seeing a rapid increase in coronavirus infections especially in the North of the country after two deaths, one in Lombardy and one in Veneto, and 79 confirmed cases of infection over the weekend.

Italy has now become the worst affected country in Europe, with the bulk of cases concentrated in Lombardy, the country’s financial and industrial heart.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Saturday the government was ready to consider further measures as more than 50,000 people from about a dozen towns in two northern regions were asked to stay at home by authorities. The prime minister announced Saturday evening that the sports ministry was suspending all sporting events, including three Serie A football matches scheduled for Sunday in the northern regions of Veneto and Lombardy. Inter Milan’s game against Sampdoria was one of those postponed due to the outbreak.

Novel coronavirus, six infected in Lombardy, northern Italy
A sheet of paper reading ‘Protective face masks out of stock’ hangs inside a pharmacy in Codogno, northern Italy. EPA-EFE/ANDREA FASANI

The Chinese tourists and an Italian national repatriated from Wuhan were the only three cases in Italy until Friday.

Hundreds of residents and workers who came into contact with 79 people who tested positive were put into isolation pending results of their tests. Civil protection crews set up a tent camp outside a closed hospital in Veneto to screen medical staff for the virus.

In the town of Codogno, where the first patient identified in the northern cluster was in critical condition, closed supermarkets, restaurants and shops made main street practically a ghost town. The few people out wore face masks, which were coveted items after selling out at pharmacies.

Coronavirus in Italy
Police on guard at the hospital of Schiavonia, near Padova, where tests for the coronavirus are performed on the population in Veneto region, northern Italy, 22 February 2020. EPA-EFE/NICOLA FOSSELLA

Cities with many cases are taking various measures to try control the spread and in churches it has been forbidden to exchange the sign of peace and the use of holy water.

Italian designer Giorgio Armani announced early Sunday that, due to the health risk, his fashion house would hold its Milan Fashion Week runway show behind closed doors.

Fashion week runway shows took place in Milan on Saturday for the fourth day in a row. Eight more shows are scheduled for Sunday, thought it was unclear if all would be held as planned.

Regional Welfare Councillor Giulio Gallera told reporters the center of the outbreak was Codogno, a small town southwest of Milan where Lombardy’s first infected patient was treated.

Gallera added 259 people had been screened in the area in the past two days and 35 had tested positive with a contagion rate of 13%.

Coronavirus in Italy
A view of an almost deserted street in the city of Codogno, northern Italy, 21 February 2020. EPA-EFE/MATTEO CORNER

Some 50,000 residents in Codogno and nearby towns have been advised to remain indoors. Public gatherings including Sunday masses and football matches have been suspended, and schools and shops have been closed down.

Regional Governor Luca Zaia said the administration was considering whether to suspend Carnival of Venice events.

There are no confirmed cases in Milan so far, Gallera said.

On Saturday the board of MIDO said the coronavirus emergency had prompted it to postpone to the end of May the world’s biggest eyewear trade fair due to take place in Milan in a week.

China reported a sharp fall in new deaths and cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, but world health officials warned it was too early to make predictions about the outbreak as new infections continued to rise in other countries.

Chinese authorities said the mainland had 397 new confirmed cases on Friday, down from 889 a day earlier. The numbers surged elsewhere, though, with outbreaks worsening in South Korea, Iran, Italy and Lebanon.

In South Korea, authorities said on Saturday the number of new infections had doubled to 433 and suggested the tally could rise significantly as more than 1,000 people who attended a church at the center of the outbreak reported flu-like symptoms.

Read more via Reuters/ ANSA






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