An 84-year-old man was confirmed dead today in Lombardy in northern Italy, where 50,000 people have been placed under lockdown in 11 towns, schools have been shut and public events banned.
The man died in Bergamo after he was taken to hospital with an unrelated illness but was later found to have the coronavirus, Italian media said.
Italy has confirmed more than 200 cases of the virus, by far the largest number outside China, Japan and South Korea.
The outbreak has sparked fears that tourists returning from Italy could send the epidemic spiralling across Europe, with many Britons back at school and work after the half-term break today.
One British Airways flight to Milan was delayed this morning after a passenger left the plane shortly before take-off at Heathrow, allegedly because they feared they would catch the virus.
The wealthy Lombardy region which includes Milan is the worst-affected region, while 25 people have been infected in neighbouring Veneto which includes Venice.
Authorities in Lombardy and Veneto have banned public events including Masses, while Milan’s famous cathedral has been closed to visitors and bars and restaurants have been ordered to close.
Armed personnel were today guarding the Milan church and stopping drivers at roadblocks in Lombardy, including near the town of Casalpusterlengo where one of the virus victims died.
Supermarket shelves and train carriages were empty this morning as panic-buying Italians prepared to stay at home to fend off the virus.
As the panic spread last night, Austria halted trains from crossing the Alps into Italy after two German women reported a fever on board, although they later tested negative.
The outbreak has also forced the stoppage of high-profile events including the Venice Carnival, Milan Fashion Week and Serie A football fixtures.
South Korea also reported a further surge in cases today, while the crisis in Iran has led to the first cases in nearby Afghanistan, Bahrain and Kuwait, and four British tourists from the Diamond Princess cruise ship tested positive back in the UK.
An Italian soldier with a gun stands guard today outside the Duomo cathedral in Milan, which has been shut to tourists over coronavirus fears – as Italy confirmed its fourth death from the virus today
Masked Italian soldiers stand outside the Duomo cathedral amid a growing outbreak with more than 160 cases confirmed
Italian armed personnel talk to drivers near the small town of Casalpusterlengo where one of the virus patients died
Empty shelves at Esselunga supermarket in Milan today as people stockpile due to the fear of the new coronavirus
Tourists wearing face masks walk across St Mark’s Square in Venice today, with the city’s carnival derailed by the outbreak
Passengers arriving at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport walk through the terminal with face masks today
Empty seats on board a rush-hour train in Milan today as authorities battle to contain the first major outbreak in Europe
ITALY – AUSTRIA BORDER: A train stopped by authorities stands on the tracks at the train station on the Italian side of the Brenner Pass on Sunday with 300 passengers on board after two complained of flu-like symptoms. The train was later given the all clear
Italy has confirmed four deaths (their locations are shown on a map above) with the region of Lombardy (marked in red) the worst-affected area of the country
ITALY: A policeman wearing a sanitary masks gestures next to a reveller in Venice as authorities called off the annual carnival
After Italy recorded its first death on Friday, the director general of the World Health Organisation Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke of a narrowing ‘window of opportunity.’
Experts have warned of an ‘uncontrollable spread’ of the virus.
‘Over the weekend we’ve seen new cases of coronavirus infection across Asia and now in Europe,’ said Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiology expert at the University of Reading.
‘Worryingly, it seems that the virus can pass from person-to-person without symptoms, making it extremely difficult track, regardless of what health authorities do.
‘While it remains the case that most people who become infected will have light symptoms or none at all, such uncontrollable spread would present a serious risk to vulnerable individuals.’
Russian police raid homes and businesses in search of Chinese people
Moscow has ordered police to raid hotels, dorms, apartment buildings and businesses in search of Chinese people as Russia attempts to stem the spread of coronavirus.
Officials also authorized the use of facial recognition technology to find those suspected of evading a 14-day self-quarantine period upon their arrival in Russia.
‘Conducting raids is an unpleasant task, but it is necessary, for the potential carriers of the virus as well,’ Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said in a statement.
Metro workers have been instructed to stop passengers from China and ask them to fill out questionnaires asking why they were in Russia, reports say.
The forms also ask passengers whether they observed a two-week quarantine, where they are staying and what their current health condition is.
An email that leaked over the weekend suggested that police would also be alerted to Chinese nationals on public transport, though authorities claimed it was a fake.
Human rights advocates have condemned the targeting of Chinese nationals as racial profiling, not an effective epidemic control strategy.
Russia has reported two cases. Both patients, Chinese nationals hospitalized in Siberia, recovered quickly.
Weeks before, Russia shut down the country’s long land border with China, suspended all trains and most flights between the two countries.
Lombardy, the worst-hit region of Italy, announced 53 new cases of coronavirus overnight, bringing the total there to 165 in just four days.
Some 25 people had the virus in Veneto, while a handful of infections were also recorded in the adjacent regions of Piedmont and Emilia Romagna.
The three other people who have died of the illness were also elderly and at least two of them had serious underlying health problems.
‘To be honest, nobody thought the spread would be so aggressive. The illness is not serious, but it must not be underestimated,’ Attilio Fontana, the regional governor of Lombardy, told RTL radio.
Authorities across the north have shut schools, universities, museums and cinemas for at least a week in the most drastic quarantine measures that any country has taken outside Asia.
Italian shares fell 4.2 per cent on Monday morning, with businesses, with Banco BPM which has its roots in Lombardy plunging nearly seven per cent.
Analysts say the outbreak could shunt Italy’s fragile economy into its fourth recession in 12 years, with government bonds also taking a swift hit.
Italy became the first European country to report one of its nationals died from the virus on Friday.
Two more fatalities came over the weekend but Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte urged people ‘not to give in to panic’, and asked them to follow the advice of health authorities.
Italy placed 50,000 residents on lockdown yesterday, called off the Venice Carnival and postponed top-flight football matches as it sought to contain the rampant disease.
Prime Minister Conte has said that residents could face weeks of lockdown in an effort to sit out the virus.
Virus panic has also crept onto catwalks in Italy, leading to the cancellation of some runway shows at Milan Fashion Week. Others were held behind closed doors and livestreamed.
A map showing the latest numbers of coronavirus cases around the world. Cases have surged in South Korea in recent days
Tourists wearing protective facemasks visit St Mark’s Square in Venice today, in northern Italy which is heavily affected
A largely deserted Milano Cadorna railway station is seen during morning rush-hour today as virus fears grip the country
A medical worker adjusts their protective mask in the back of an ambulance in Brescia today amid a spiralling virus outbreak
A sparse Milan Central station today with many people in northern Italy quarantined in their towns to contain the outbreak
Health workers put up a tent at the Giovanni Bosco Hospital in Turin yesterday as Italy battles to contain the outbreak
Last night Austria held up a train carrying around 300 people in the Brenner Pass, which crosses the Alps from Austria to Italy.
The train was halted amid panic over two German women who had flu-like symptoms, but was later given the all-clear after they tested negative.
Neighbouring Slovenia asked vacationers returning from ski resorts in northern Italy to be particularly vigilant for symptoms.
Schools have been closed as a precaution in Lombardy, Veneto, Piedmont, Emilia Romagna and Friuli Venezia Giulia.
Piedmont shares a border with France, while the other regions neighbour Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia.
France has said there is no need to close borders in response to the spread of virus in Italy, and there is no word yet from the UK government.
However, Israel has added travellers from Italy to a list of people who may need to go into quarantine if they arrive in Israel with possible virus symptoms.
Most of the cases in Italy can be traced back to a 38-year-old man in the town of Codogno whom authorities have called ‘patient one’.
Investigators are reconstructing minute by minute the man’s movements over the past few weeks – where he slept, ate, walked – in a bid to trace everyone he could have come into contact with.
‘We had the most unfortunate situation possible; the outbreak of an epidemic in a hospital,’ infectious disease expert Massimo Galli told the Corriere della Sera daily.
‘Unfortunately, in these cases, a hospital can turn into a frightening amplifier of contagion,’ he said..
The 38-year old had not travelled to China and doctors failed to treat him with the necessary precautions.
The man initially believed to have given him the virus after returning from Shanghai later tested negative. ‘We still do not know who brought the coronavirus to Codogno,’ Galli said.
UNITED KINGDOM: 30 Britons and two Irish citizens arrived back in Britain on Saturday night (pictured) and were taken for quarantine at Arrowe Park hospital on the Wirral. Four were diagnosed with the virus and rushed to other hospitals
SOUTH KOREA: Workers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant at a market in the southeastern city of Daegu. South Korea reported two additional deaths from coronavirus and 123 more cases on February 23, with nearly two thirds of the new patients connected to a religious sect. The national toll of 763 cases is now the second-highest outside of China, with seven dead
JAPAN: Sumo wrestlers wearing face masks are seen on arrival at Shin Osaka Station ahead of the Grand Sumo Spring Tournament on Sunday
China BANS eating wild animals amid fears the practice sparked coronavirus outbreak
China has today declared a ban on eating wild animals, a practice believed to be responsible for the outbreak.
The immediate and ‘comprehensive’ ban was approved by the country’s top legislative committee today.
The ban is aimed at ‘prohibiting the illegal wildlife trade, abolishing the bad habit of overconsumption of wildlife, and effectively protecting the lives and health of the people,’ state television said.
Previous temporary bans have been put in place, including after the SARS virus killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in 2002-03 and was also traced to wild animal consumption.
However, that ban was short-lived and conservationists have long accused China of allowing a cruel trade in wild animals as exotic menu items or for use in dubious medicines.
Today’s decision was made by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), which oversees the country’s rubber-stamp legislature.
Chinese health officials have said the virus likely emerged from a market in the central city of Wuhan that sold wild animals as food.
The coronavirus has killed 2,592 people in China, infected some 77,000 others and paralysed the country’s economy.
Elsewhere, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Bahrain have today confirmed their first virus cases, with all three countries saying their first patients had recently returned from Iran.
On Saturday night, four Britons evacuated from the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess tested positive for the illness after 32 passengers from the cruise liner held in Japan arrived for quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral.
Two of the patients are in the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, one is in the Royal Liverpool University Hospital and a fourth was taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.
While the European Union urged there was ‘no need to panic’, health experts warned that in the last 24 hours the world has been brought to the brink.
Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said: ‘The director general of the WHO has recently spoken of a narrowing of the window of opportunity to control the current epidemic.
‘The tipping point after which our ability to prevent a global pandemic ends seems a lot closer after the past 24 hours.’
He noted that despite numbers declining in China, where the outbreak began in December, the weekend’s developments were ‘extremely concerning.’
Dr Robin Thompson, junior research fellow in mathematical epidemiology at the University of Oxford, told The Guardian: ‘This is an important stage of the coronavirus outbreak … Fast isolation of even mild cases in affected areas is important for preventing substantial person-to-person transmission in Europe.
‘It is critical that public health guidelines are followed.’
An ambulance and police are seen as coaches containing British Diamond Princess evacuees arrive at Arrowe Park Hospital on Saturday night. four Britons evacuated from the coronavirus-stricken vessel tested positive for the illness after 32 passengers from the ship held in Japan arrived in quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral.
A view of the stopped train at the Brenner railway station at the border between Tyrol, Austria, and South Tyrol, Italy, seen from the Austrian side on Sunday night
Fifty people are ‘killed by virus in Iranian city’, lawmaker says
Fifty people have died of coronavirus in the Iranian city of Qom, a lawmaker has said – despite official regime figures showing only 12 deaths in all of Iran.
Ahmad Amiriabadi Farahani told a session of Parliament in Tehran that 50 people had died in Qom in the last 11 days.
‘I think the performance of the administration in controlling the virus has not been successful,’ he said.
‘None of the nurses have access to proper protective gears,’ Farahani said, adding that some health care specialists had left the city.
‘So far, I have not seen any particular action to confront corona by the administration.’
Health ministry spokesman Iraj Harirchi rejected the Qom lawmaker’s claims, insisting the death toll from the virus remains at 12.
However, he raised the number of confirmed cases from the virus to 61. Some 900 other suspected cases are being tested, he said.
‘No one is qualified to discuss this sort of news at all,’ Haririchi said, adding that lawmakers have no access to coronavirus statistics.
South Korea today reported another surge in cases, with another 161 patients diagnosed – most of them linked to the secretive religious sect at the centre of the outbreak – bringing the total to 763 of whom seven have died.
The country has also postponed the start of the new football season, with all K-League fixtures pushed back after officials said the outbreak had ‘entered a serious phase’.
Of South Korea’s 161 new cases, 129 were related to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a secretive sect based in Daegu which is widely regarded as a cult.
Officials are also investigating a possible link between churchgoers and a spike in infections at a hospital in nearby Cheongdo.
Five of South Korea’s seven virus deaths have been linked to the hospital in Cheongdo, where a slew of infections were confirmed among patients in a mental ward.
Officials have voiced hope that they they can contain the outbreak in Daegu, but there are also signs of the virus spreading across the country, including a number of cases in the capital Seoul.
Health minister Kim Gang-lip said that health officials plan to test all of Daegu’s residents exhibiting cold-like symptoms, which he said would be about 28,000 people.
‘In Daegu, the number of new cases that are being confirmed by tests is quite large, and if we fail to effectively stem community transmissions in this area, there would be a large possibility [that it] spreads nationwide,’ he said.
The national government has shuttered schools, cancelled events, and asked companies to scatter working hours and keep employees at home if they experience coughs or other respiratory symptoms.
Seoul’s mayor Park Won-soon has also scattered the working hours of some 40,000 city employees to ease transit congestion and warned of sterner action against protesters who defied a ban on rallies.
A police officer wearing a protective face mask stands next to a masked carnival reveller at Venice Carnival, with the last two days, as well as Sunday night’s festivities, cancelled because of coronavirus. As Italy recorded three deaths, the director general of the World Health Organisation Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke of a narrowing ‘window of opportunity.’
Sumo wrestlers wearing face masks are seen on arrival at Shin Osaka Station ahead of the Grand Sumo Spring Tournament on Sunday
Sumo wrestlers wearing face masks arrive at the JR Shin-Osaka train station on Sunday night
Iran’s confirmed death toll yesterday rose to eight, prompting travel bans from neighbouring countries.
Bahrain and Kuwait both revealed their first cases of the virus today, with both countries saying that the patients had recently entered from Iran.
Along with Italy, Iran has begun introducing the sort of containment measures previously seen only in China, which has put tens of millions of people under lockdown in Hubei province, the outbreak’s epicentre.
On Sunday, China’s President Xi Jinping called the epidemic the ‘largest public health emergency’ in the country’s history.
‘This is a crisis for us and it is a big test,’ Xi said during remarks carried by state television.
In a rare admission, at a meeting to coordinate the fight against the virus, Xi added that China must learn from ‘obvious shortcomings exposed’ during its response.
The WHO has praised Beijing for its handling of the epidemic, but China has been criticised at home for silencing early warnings from a whistleblower doctor who later died from the virus.
The second patient to die was an elderly woman whose death has triggered the closing down of shops, offices and community centres in Casalpusterlengo, according to Italian news agency Ansa. Pictured are medical workers outside a hospital in Padua
The first Italian to die was retired bricklayer Adriano Trevisan, 78, (pictured left) who died in hospital in Padua on Friday evening. Pictured right: health workers wearing protective face masks in front of a school in Padua
The last two days of the carnival in Venice, as well as Sunday night’s festivities, have been cancelled because of an outbreak of coronavirus. Pictured: Attendee wearing a facemask
Tourists wear protective face masks in a gondola, because of an outbreak of coronavirus, in Venice
Carnival revellers wear protective face masks at Venice Carnival, which the last two days of, as well as Sunday night’s festivities, have been cancelled
‘The rapid increase in reported cases in Italy over the past two days is of concern,’ World Health Organization spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said.
Not all reported cases seem to have clear epidemiological links, such as travel history to China or contact with a confirmed case, Jasarevic added.
‘At this stage, we need to focus on limiting further human to human transmission.’
Iran ordered the closure of schools, universities and cultural centres across 14 provinces following eight deaths – the most outside East Asia.
The outbreak in the Islamic Republic surfaced Wednesday and quickly grew to 43 confirmed infections, a sudden rise that prompted regional travel restrictions.
Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pachinian said his country will close its border with Iran and suspend flights.
Roma supporters wear protective face masks due to the Coronavirus COVID-19 epidemic prior to the Italian Serie A soccer match between AS Roma and US Lecce at the Olimpico stadium in Rome, Italy
Lazio fans were also pictured wearing face masks during the Serie A match between Genoa CFC and SS Lazio that went ahead at Stadio Luigi Ferraris earlier today
East Anglia Prof. Hunter said the situation in Iran has ‘major implications’ for the Middle East.
‘It is unlikely that Iran will have the resources and facilities to adequately identify cases and adequately manage them if case numbers are large,’ Prof. Hunter said.
Pakistan and Turkey announced the closure of land crossings with Iran while Afghanistan said it was suspending travel to the country.
The outbreak in China remains concentrated in the city of Wuhan – locked down one month ago – where the virus is believed to have emanated from a live animal market in December.
China’s infection rate has slowed, but flip-flopping over counting methods has sown confusion over its data.
There also was growing concern over the difficulty of detecting the virus.
Japan on Sunday confirmed a woman who tested negative and disembarked from the virus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship later tested positive.
Similarly in Israel, authorities confirmed that a second Israeli citizen who returned from the ship had tested positive. They were among 11 Israelis allowed off the ship and flown home after initially testing negative.
Japan has been criticised over its handling of cases aboard the vessel quarantined off Yokohama.
A third passenger died Sunday, Japan’s health ministry said, without specifying if it was as a result of the virus.
Children wearing face masks play hockey on rollers, following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the country, in Beijing
Ambulances carrying patients infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus arrive at a hospital in Daegu, South Korea on Sunday
A woman practises Wushu, a Chinese martial art, while wearing a mask as a precautionary measure against the spread of the Covid-19 novel coronavirus in Hong Kong