ROME – Government officials on Sunday locked down at least five cities near Milan, closed schools and canceled the Venice Carnival, controlling the first major outbreak of the coronavirus in Europe, with nearly five cases announced in recent days.
The new cases are mostly in the Lombardy region, including Milan, and are one of the most densely populated regions of Italy. From less than five cases before Thursday – the spike has made the country the fastest test of whether the virus can be successfully infected in a free European society.
The coronavirus crisis began in China in late December and since then, more than 2,000 people worldwide have died due to the majority of cases and fatalities in China. The country’s authoritarian government has taken extraordinary separate measures and imposed strict restrictions on travel, but is still fighting the virus infection.
South Korea, the most affected country in Asia outside China, confirmed 602 infections and six deaths. On Sunday, President Moon Jae-in confronted the country with the highest possible warning, empowering the government to lock down cities and take other clear measures to prevent the outbreak.
“The next few days will be a critical time for us,” he said at an emergency meeting of government officials.
The same challenge is now in place for Italy, the fourth largest economy in Europe, where the coalition government between the Democratic Party and the Five Star Movement, a shaky and often contradictory one, has been staggering for months.
Five stars were often engulfed in important health issues, such as vaccination, adopting conspiracy theories, and playing with the mistrust of the government’s voters. The biggest crisis will be whether the government can combine and take preventive measures to prevent further spread of the virus.
Health Response The response of the government led by Roberto Sprenza has been aggressive so far.
Regional and municipal authorities have issued multiple banning ordinances throughout Italy after the government issued a state-of-the-art emergency on Saturday night. According to an ordinance issued by President Atilio Fontana of the Lombardy region, the Ministry of Health has drafted, all public events in the Lombardy region “whether cultural, leisure, religious or sport” have been canceled. Museums have been instructed to close their doors.
Most bars, nightclubs and movie theaters, as well as many other places in Lombardy, including churches, have been closed. In some other areas, there are similar closures.
“We invite people to stay at home, try and capture what we do not yet know,” said Giulio Gallera, officer in charge of the health of the Lombardy region, which is not aggressive but moves quickly to a television press conference on Sunday.
In Lombardy, a city of Kodogno, about 5km southeast of Milan, was closed after a group of cases came out. At least 50,000 people were harmed by the lockdown. Residents were only supposed to leave or arrive with special permission.
On Sunday, police and armed forces members were deployed to monitor the city gates.
“The most precautionary measures have been taken to protect citizens,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conti wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
Two military structures in Lombardy were set to become detachment camps, and other military sites and hotels have been identified throughout the country. A military base in Rome has been evacuated to China’s Wuhan, where the virus originated, and the passengers aboard the separation cruise ship of the Japanese Princess of Yokohama from Italy’s Diamond Princess.
The outbreak began in Kodogno on Thursday after a 38-year-old man, identified as “a patient”, was admitted to a city hospital. But the man had probably made the symptoms five days earlier, potentially letting the virus spread.
What’s more worrying is that health officials still don’t know how he was infected with the virus because he wasn’t in China. Officials, however, say that one of the cases was caught in Lombardi in many cases.
At least five members of the hospital’s medical staff and several patients were infected in Kodogno. Other people who have tested positive include the person’s pregnant wife, a close friend, and others who have spent time with them. The city around the man who works and lives is included in the closure.
Officials said a similar lockdown method would be applied if new clusters were originated anywhere in Italy. According to the official decree, local authorities have tested positive for the virus and are obliged to “take all appropriate regulatory measures” in cases where the source of the infection is unknown.
Separation will also be taken with those who have close contact with the virus.
Hospitals are increasing intensive care facilities, and hotels and other structures are being identified as a potential place to isolate the virus, said Mr Gallera, health officer for Lombardi.
He added that “we are doing the former” to avoid handling major emergencies.
“We’re trying to contain an event, but it’s not an epidemic,” Mr Galera said.
The president of other northern Italian regions has suspended several education programs – from pre-school through universities to time Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala announced that schools would be closed for a week.
At least two trade fairs in Milan at the corner of Lombard City’s economy were postponed at a later time, although most women’s fashion shows continued on schedule. Giorgio Armani had his show live on the back door, in a vacant room, instead streaming live.
Carnival saved many tourists who crowded into the city before Tuesday’s final Mardi Gras celebration of one of Venice’s main annual events and events canceled.
Two seniors who tested positive for coronavirus were in intensive care at a municipal hospital in Venice.
“The couple had no contact with the Chinese community,” Italian media reported.
Also on Sunday, Venice’s patriarch, the venerable Francesco Morglia, suspended all religious ceremonies, including the Ash Wednesday ceremony marked by the start of Lent.
Three people have died so far, including a 1-year-old man from Veneto who died on Friday and an elderly woman who died in Crema on Sunday.
Third, a 77-year-old woman died at her home in Casalpasterlango, Lombardy, and posthumously tested positive for the virus. Mr Galera, however, told reporters Saturday that his health was compromised and that he may have died for another reason.