Around a dozen towns in Italy are in lockdown as the country races to contain the biggest outbreak of coronavirus in Europe after a surge in cases.
Authorities in the wealthy regions of Lombardy and Veneto ordered schools and universities to close for at least a week, shut museums and cinemas and called off the last two days of the Venice Carnival.
It comes after the number of those infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, jumped above 100 in Italy. Two people have died in the country from the virus so far.
The first fatality was a former construction company owner aged in his late 70s, who died in Padua, in the Veneto region, where he had been admitted along with another person who has tested positive for COVID-19.
A second patient – a woman – died hours later in Lombardy.
Three Serie A football matches have been postponed in the wake of the virus outbreak, while Italy’s Women’s Six Nations match with Scotland was cancelled.
Authorities expressed frustration they have not been able to track down the source of the virus spread in the north of Italy.
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It surfaced in the region last week when an Italian man in his late 30s in Codogno became critically ill.
“The health officials haven’t been yet able to pinpoint Patient Zero,” Angelo Borrelli, head of the national Civil Protection agency, told reporters in Rome.
At first, it was widely presumed that the man was infected by an Italian friend he dined with and who recently returned from his job, based in Shanghai.
When the friend tested negative for the virus, attention turned to several Chinese who live in town and who frequent the same cafe visited by the stricken man.
But Lombardy governor Attilio Fontana told reporters all of those Chinese have tested negative too.
At least 78,823 people worldwide have been infected with the virus, almost 77,000 of them in China, where it originated in December.
More than 2,460 people have died, according to figures recorded by Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science.
Source : Sky News