Health personnel wait to test people’s temperature in the triage area at the Molinette hospital as … [+]
Topline: Italy, which is the largest cluster of coronavirus cases outside Asia, has seen the number of people tested positive for the pneumonia-like illness hit 400.
- Italy is at the centre of a surge in cases around Europe, with the country now scrambling to contain the hundreds of cases there and have put 55,000 residents in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto under lockdown. Lombardy’s governor has quarantined himself after one of his staff tested positive for Covid-19.
- Cases have spread further south in the country, while at least 12 people have died after contracting the pneumonia-like illness. Schools, universities and some businesses in the most affected regions are closed.
- Markets across Europe continue to slump on news of the surge, with the Stoxx 600 falling 2.2% on Thursday, after Wednesday’s slide.
- Several cases across Europe have been traced back to Italy, with Denmark, Austria, Croatia, Georgia, Greece and Norway among countries reporting their first cases this week.
- Two hotels across the continent are on lockdown—one in the Austrian ski town of Innsbruck and another in Tenerife, Spain—after infected visitors from affected parts of Italy travelled to those sites.
- Britain now has 15 reported cases of the illness, after two more people tested positive on Thursday.
- Iran, which has fast become a hotspot for the disease in the Middle East, has at least 140 cases, including senior health officials, while at least 22 have died. Authorities do not currently plan to quarantine any of its cities and towns, president Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday.
- According to AFP, 24 people have been arrested in Iran, accused of spreading rumours about the virus.
What’s behind the surge? WHO official Walter Ricciardi said that the numbers in Italy could be exaggerated, as the results of some test samples in the two-step verification process are yet to be confirmed. Only 190 have been confirmed positive through this process, Reuters, citing the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, reported. Hundreds of people in Veneto have been tested even without showing symptoms, Ricciardi told local press.
Big number: At least 80,000 people across 40 countries have been infected with the disease, while more than 2,700 have died, mostly in China. The World Health Organization said on Wednesday that the number of new cases reported outside China is now greater than the numbers being reported from inside China. But China’s system of categorizing cases of the illness, as well as the way it tests for it, have changed a several times since the outbreak first began while some have questioned the figures released but local and national officials.
Tangent: A child born this week to an Italian woman who has the coronavirus in Piacenza, a city bordering the affected Lombardy region, did not test positive for the illness, Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported.
Key background: Spain, Germany and France have also reported more cases of the virus in recent days, while a number of high profile events have been cut short or cancelled, including Six Nations rugby matches in Ireland next weekend. Outside Europe, South Korea, which is the second largest cluster of coronavirus cases, has reported 1,200 cases and 12 deaths. Most infections there have been linked to the secretive Shincheonji church sect.
Additional info: There are fears that the impact of the illness could tip Italy into a recession with tourism accounting for 13% of Italy’s GDP. Milan’s biggest tourist attractions, including the Duomo, have been closed while around 50% of hotel bookings have been cancelled over the past week.
Further reading: Health Secretary Asks For Emergency Coronavirus Funding While Trump Calls For 16% Cut To CDC Budget (Lisette Voytko)