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Coronavirus death toll rises to seven in Italy

Milan residents who ventured out wore masks in an attempt to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
Milan residents who ventured out wore masks in an attempt to protect themselves from the coronavirus. RFI/Sabina Castelfranco

Italian authorities were on Monday night working to implement measures to curb the biggest outbreak of the coronavirus in Europe after the death toll in the country rose to seven with more than 200 confirmed cases. 

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Schools and universities were closed in at least six regions in the north for a minimum of one week and office workers were urged to stay at home and indoors. All school trips in the region were also cancelled.

The government underlined the severity of the outbreak by ordering the closure of cinemas, theatres and museums as well as bars and discos.

Venice carnival events were cut short for the first time in living memory as authorities banned all demonstrations and public gatherings, including sports events and church services in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus. Funerals have been restricted to close family members only.

Surprise

Andrea Borrelli, the head of Italy’s civil defence department, confirmed authorities had been surprised by how fast the virus had been passed on.

He said people who have contracted the virus would be housed in army barracks and specially designated hostels.

Giuseppe Conte, the Italian Prime Minister, said residents in affected towns could face weeks in lockdown.

Over the weekend in Milan, which is in hardest hit region of Lombardy, there was panic buying in supermarkets as fears rose that shops would run out of stock.

Even the majestic Duomo was closed and no trials were being held in the courthouse.

Response

Most of those who did venture out in the city wore surgical masks. One vendor outside Milan railway station said he was selling the masks at 10 euros each.

Some regional train lines were cancelled but fast trains between the major cities operated without restrictions even though Italians have been told to avoid travelling to affected areas.

At airports in Italy passengers were being checked for symptoms of the virus with heat sensors.

Other countries are also trying to limit the spread of coronavirus. Italians from Lombardy and Veneto who travelled on an Alitalia plane that landed in Mauritius on Monday were told they either had to go into quarantine or return home. Forty passengers returned home.

Ireland has also told its citizens to avoid travelling to affected areas in Italy and Tunisia said it would cancel some of its flights to Italy.

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