Public spaces closed in 10 Italian towns over coronavirus fears: official

First Italian patient dies of coronavirus

A patient in the northern city of Padua has died after being infected with the coronavirus, becoming the first Italian victim of the disease, Ansa news agency reported.

The dead man was aged 78, it said.

Authorities in northern Italy ordered the closure of schools, bars and other public spaces in 10 towns following a flurry of new coronavirus cases.

Five doctors and nine other people tested positive for the virus in Lombardy, after apparently frequenting the same bar and group of friends, with two other cases in Veneto, authorities said at a press conference.

Over 50,000 people have been asked to stay at home in the areas concerned, while all public activities such as carnival celebrations, church masses and sporting events have been banned for up to a week.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the government was maintaining “an extremely high level of precaution”.

Italian health minister Roberto Speranza said the country is now seeing the same sort of ‘cluster’ of cases that Germany and France have seen.

Streets in the towns were deserted, with only a few people seen abroad, and signs showing public spaces closed.

The first town to be shuttered was Codogno, with a population of 15,000, where three people tested positive for the virus, including a 38-year old man and his wife, who is eight months pregnant.

Three others there have tested positive to a first novel coronavirus test and are awaiting their definitive results.

Codogno mayor Francesco Passerini said the news of the cases “has sparked alarm” throughout the town south of Milan.

The 38-year old, who works for Unilever in Lodi, was in a serious condition in intensive care.

‘Extremely worried’

He had dined earlier this month with a man who had visited China in January, and had later shown flu-like symptoms, but has since tested negative for the virus, Italian media said.

A football friend of his, the son of a bar owner in Codogno, has also tested positive, along with three regulars at the bar.

The three, all of whom are retired, live in the small town of Castiglione d’Adda. The mayor there said the locals were “extremely worried” about the spread of the deadly disease. Its libraries, public offices, gyms and waste depots would be closed as a health precaution.

Some 250 people were being placed in isolation after coming into contact with the new cases, according to the Lombardy region, and 60 workers at Unilever have been tested for the virus.

“In other parts of the world, and also in China, it has been demonstrated that this system (of self-isolation) helps in a substantial way to block the spread,” Lombardy regional president Attilio Fontana said.
But we must not let ourselves be overcome by panic.

The head of the Veneto region, Luca Zaia, said a 78- and 67-year old, from the village of Vo’ Euganeo, at the foot of the Euganean Hills near Padua, had tested positive.

He said he was in contact with the mayor about following Lombardy’s example and closing public spaces in that town too.

There are three other cases of the virus in Italy, who are being treated in isolation at the Spallanzani Institute in Rome.

The outbreak of the so-called covid-19 illness which began in December has killed more than 2,200 people and infected more than 75,500 in China.

Over 1,150 people have been infected and eight have died across 26 other countries, according to the World Health Organization.

- with reporting from the Press Association

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