Italy denies plan to close all schools due to coronavirus

Andrew Cummings
February 27, 2020

So far, all of the countries that share borders with Italy - France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia - have kept them fully open.

Napoli are due to host Barcelona in a Champions League round-of-16 first-leg tie on Tuesday but there has been no suggestion of that match being under threat.

Ten towns in Lombardy close to Italy's business capital Milan, with a combined population of almost 50,000, have been placed under effective quarantine, with similar measures adopted for a small town in neighboring Veneto.

Tuscany reported its first two cases, including one in the tourist destination of Florence, while Sicily marked one: a tourist from the worst-hit Lombardy region, where 212 people have tested positive.

The Lombardy region includes Milan while Turin is around 150 kilometres away in Piedmont.

Italian farm lobby Coldiretti reported a 5%-10% increase in fresh fruit and produce purchases this weekend across the country, as Italians stocked up fearing possible future quarantines even in regions that hadn't registered any cases.

"Virus - Northern Italy under Siege", read Sunday's headline in the Il Fatto Quotidiano daily, as television stations delivered a steady stream of images of masked locals and hospital workers in protective suits.

The man was eventually tested after doctors ascertained from his wife that he had met with someone who had recently returned from China. But when the friend tested negative for the virus attention turned to several Chinese residents who frequent the same cafe visited by the stricken man. The five people who died with coronavirus were all elderly and two of them had other serious ailments.

If stopping the spread of the virus from spreading is increasingly out of reach, public health officials and health agencies will have to move on to a new stage - to prepare for a pandemic, by strengthening the healthcare system of countries, fast-tracking treatments and vaccines for the infection, and providing care for those who are already infected.

Lombardy's ban on public events also extended to Masses in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation.

Universities in Milan have been closed and the city's mayor, Giuseppe Sala, said schools would also close their doors while the outbreak continued. School trips inside Italy and overseas were banned. The pontiff shook hands with numerous faithful.

Lombardy remained the worst hit area with 172 confirmed circumstances, whereas neighboring Veneto had 33 infections, together with 4 in Venice, which had been filled with vacationers earlier than its carnival was curtailed two days forward of schedule.

This means around 10,000 people are banned from leaving or entering the affected areas without authorization.

On Sunday, the head of the civil protection department, Angelo Borrelli, said during a news conference that thousands of beds were at the ready in military barracks or hotels to house quarantined or sick individuals, if needed.

"Every quarter-hour or so a auto goes by" on the main road, Catanacci said, speaking by telephone.

"She had been hospitalised for a few days", Giulio Gallera, Lombardy's health chief, said during a news conference.

"Shutting down the borders would be a disproportionate and mistaken measure", Speranza said.

High profile events including fashion shows in Milan, Serie A football matches and the last days of the Venice Carnival have been disrupted, even those well outside the lockdown areas. Those measures were ordered Saturday night by the Italian government. Hand disinfectant and face masks were in short supply; in Genoa - which hasn't had any cases - the supermarket shelves were empty.

Britain's number of confirmed cases rose to 13, with the positive test results of four Britons who had been aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which had been moored for days at a Japanese port when the ship was quarantined.

Conte said Italy won't seek a suspension of the Schengen agreement, which has eliminated border controls among 26 European countries. Lang said the situation would be discussed in meetings Monday, local Austrian media reported.

Health authorities were frustrated by their failure to identify how the outbreak in the north had started.

But while governments are "monitoring" the situation, travelers have not been advised against travel to Italy.

They were the first non-tourist deaths in Europe.

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