A dozen Italian towns have gone into lockdown Saturday after a growing cluster of coronavirus cases were detected and two people infected with the disease died.
Authorities in the Lombardy and Veneto regions closed schools, businesses and restaurants in response to the outbreak, The Associated Press reported. Scheduled sporting events and church services were also canceled.
Attilio Fontana, the president of Lombardy, said there were 39 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the region and 10 towns were ordered to suspend “nonessential” activities.
A 77-year-old woman in the region tested positive for the virus after her death, but it is not yet known whether the virus was the cause of death.
None of the infected people in Lombardy have visited China, but at least 15 of them are believed to have frequented the same bar and had the same group of friends, according to the New York Post.
It is believed that the first man who was infected with the virus in Lombardy met with a friend who had visited China.
These cases in Lombardy are the first known cases of local transmission in Italy.
According to Veneto regional president Luca Zaia, 12 people in the region have been infected with the virus, two of whom are confirmed relatives of a 78-year-old man who died with the infection on Friday.
The man was from a small town 30 miles southeast of Padua and was hospitalized for two weeks prior to his death, the Post reported.
Zaia said that the local transmissions in the small town show that the virus is spread just like any flu.
“You can get it from anyone,” he said, according to the AP. “We can expect to have cases of patients who had no contact” with people suspected of carrying the disease or with links to China.
While contagious, the virus is only particularly lethal for the elderly or people with existing medical conditions.
The first case of coronavirus also appeared in the Piedmont region of Italy on Saturday when a man fell ill after coming in contact with the “Lombard stock,” according to Sky TG24.
“It is not a Piedmontese outbreak but a Lombard one,” Regional Councilor for Health Luigi Icardi said.
Public offices in Milan were also closed on Saturday, but events like Milan Fashion Week were continuing on as normal.
“It doesn’t seem to me in this moment for what regards our sector, our fashion week, that there are signs of danger,” Carlo Capasa, president of the Italian National Fashion Chamber, told the AP. “We are tranquil and prudent.”
Adding the case in the Piedmont region, as of Saturday, there were at least 55 coronavirus infections nationwide: 39 in Lombardy, 12 in Veneto, three in Rome and one in Piedmont.
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