Two deaths from Coronavirus have sparked fears in northern Italy over the weekend, with around 50,000 people facing a lockdown imposed by authorities to halt a further spread of the infections.
Italy is the first European country to confirm the death of one of its own nationals from the virus. Travel restrictions on a number of towns where people are contaminated has continued to rise.
The two deaths from Coronavirus have occurred since Friday and over a hundred cases have now been reported, with most of them in or around the small town of Codogno in the Lombardy region, about 70km southeast of Milan.
A 77-year-old woman died on Saturday near Codogno, a day after a 78-year-old retired bricklayer died from the virus in the neighbouring region of Veneto.
Over 50,000 residents in 11 towns – 10 in Lombardy and one in Veneto – could now face weeks of lockdown.
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The Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said that people living in the 11 towns would be restricted to those areas, whilst schools and businesses would also close, as part of measures designed to stop new infections.
It is not yet clear how Italian authorities will impose travel restrictions in the area, and whether residents would still be allowed to travel from town to town.
Even outside the zone, however, many businesses have already suspended activities, and a number of sporting events have been cancelled including several top football matches. Inter Milan’s home game against Sampdoria was among four Serie A fixtures on Sunday postponed over fears of the spread of Coronavirus.
With the growing restrictions, the last two days of the Venice Carnival, on Monday and Tuesday, have also been cancelled.
The new strain of Coronavirus, which originated last year in Hubei province in China, causes a respiratory disease called Covid-19. China has seen more than 76,000 infections and 2,442 deaths.
South Korea has also raised its Coronavirus alert to the ‘highest level’ as confirmed numbers of those infected keeps rising. President Moon Jae-in said the country was at ‘a grave turning point’. Six people have died from the virus in South Korea and more than 600 have been infected.
Up-to-date WHO advice and facts about the Coronavirus epidemic can be found here: www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/technical-guidance.