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Northern Italy quarantines 16 million people


Northern Italy quarantines 16 million people

Italy announced a sweeping quarantine early Sunday, restricting the movements of about a quarter of its population in a bid to limit contagions and end the virus' advance at the epicenter of Europe's outbreak. Italy on Saturday saw its biggest daily increase in coronavirus cases since the outbreak began in the north of the country on Feb 21. Around the world, more and more countries were bracing for a surge in virus cases.

Italy's Prime Minister has said at least 16 million people are now in mandatory quarantine in Lombardy region and also in 14 provinces. The lock-down will last until early April. The dramatic escalation in the country's efforts to contain the new coronavirus will close gyms, pools, museums and ski resorts.

Italy is Europe's worst-hit country and reported a steep rise in virus infections on Saturday (Mar 7).

The new measures, which also apply to financial centre Milan and tourist hotspot Venice will last until Apr 3.

The death toll in Italy has passed 230, with officials reporting more than 50 deaths in 24 hours. The number of confirmed cases jumped by more than 1,200 to 5,883 on Saturday.

The whole northern region of Lombardy, home to 10 million people and Italy's financial centre Milan, will be closed off except to emergency access, and 14 provinces including Venice, Parma and Modena will be subject to the same measures - affecting a total of around 16 million people.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the provinces affected were Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia, Rimini, Pesaro and Urbino, Alessandria, Asti, Novara, Verbano Cusio Ossola, Vercelli, Padua, Treviso and Venice.

Until now only around 50,000 people in northern Italy had been affected by quarantine measures.

In Egypt, a cruise ship on the Nile with more than 150 aboard was under quarantine in the southern city of Luxor after 12 positive tests.

Also Saturday, the port of Penang in Malaysia turned away the cruise ship Costa Fortuna because 64 of the 2,000 aboard are from Italy. The ship had already been rejected by Thailand, and is now heading to Singapore.

And in Malta, which reported its first case of the virus Saturday, the MSC Opera ship agreed not to enter the Mediterranean country’s port amid local worries — even though there are no infections suspected on board. The ship continued to Messina, Sicily, where passengers were allowed to disembark after officials reviewed medical records.

While the global death toll has risen past 3,400, more people have now recovered from the virus than are sickened by it. As of Saturday, nearly 90,000 cases have been reported in Asia; more than 8,000 in Europe; 6,000 in the Mideast; about 450 in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, and fewer than 50 cases reported so far in Africa.

While many scientists said the world is clearly in the grips of a pandemic — a serious global outbreak – the World Health Organization isn’t calling it that yet, saying the word might spook the world further.

The virus is still much less widespread than annual flu epidemics, which cause up to 5 million severe cases around the world and up to 650,000 deaths annually, according to the WHO.

In Iran, fears over the virus and the government's waning credibility has become a major challenge to leaders already reeling from American sanctions. More than 1,000 infections were confirmed overnight, bringing the country's total to 5,823 cases, including 145 deaths.

South Korea, the hardest-hit country outside China, reported 93 new cases on Sunday morning, taking the total to 7,134, with 50 deaths overall.

China on Sunday morning reported 44 new cases over the past 24 hours, the lowest level since it began publishing nationwide figures on Jan 20, and 27 new fatalities.

But while infections were increasing more slowly, the country was struck anew by tragedy: A hotel used for medical observation of people who had contact with coronavirus patients collapsed on Saturday, killing at least four people.

In the United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged older adults and people with severe medical conditions to "stay home as much as possible" and avoid crowds.

The number of deaths linked to coronavirus in Washington state reached 16, although that figure could be higher, based on figures released by the nursing home at the center of the outbreak. The Life Care Center of Kirkland said Saturday that, since Feb 19, 26 of its residents have died. Typically, about three to seven residents die at the facility each month.

Even islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean have not been spared, with the tiny archipelago nation of the Maldives reporting its first cases. Health authorities there locked down two of its tourist resorts after two expatriate workers tested positive for the coronavirus.

- Source: News websites

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