The first European deaths from the coronavirus have left Italian authorities racing to try to control its spread in the north of the country, after a surge in confirmed cases in recent days left Italy with themost infections in Europe.
Health officials in the Lombardy region, where Milan is located, and from Veneto, home to Venice, confirmed Saturday that the total number of cases in the two areas has jumped to 51, only days after the first suspected case. One death in each region marked the first non-tourists to succumb tothe disease in Europe.
Authorities in Lombardy have locked down about a dozen towns in the Lodi area, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Milan, the country’s financial hub. Local businesses and restaurants are closed, soccer matches were suspended, some schools were shut and municipalities suspended Mass. More than 50,000 people are affected by the injunction just in Lombardy, according to newswire Ansa.
While three tourists had previously been confirmed with the virus, the new outbreak marks the first local cases. All the infections in the north are linked to a man who sought treatment in the town of Codogno on Feb. 18, Giulio Gallera, health secretary for the regional Lombardy government said at a press conference Saturday in Milan. The other people infected either came into contact with him, or the hospital where he was being treated, Gallera said.
The 38-year-old man is a researcher at a Unilever plant in Casalpusterlengo near Codogno, who had dinner earlier this month with an Italian businessman who lives in China, said Lombardy regional governor Attilio Fontana. The businessman had not displayed any symptons.
There were signs that the virus was spreading outside Lombardy and Veneto. Health authorities in the city of Turin said a 40-year-old was infected there, Ansa reported. It would be the first case in the Piedmont region, which neighbors Lombardy.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will hold a meeting of his cabinet later today to consider additional emergency measures to contain the virus, Ansa reported.
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