Coronavirus cripples Italy as 50,000 people forced into quarantine following huge outbreak

Authorities in Italy have battled to contain Europe’s first major outbreak of coronavirus and Iran reported eight deaths – the highest toll outside of China. Some of the disease clusters identified in recent days have shown no link to China, a worrying sign of the virus spreading beyond control.

The Iranian health ministry said there were now 43 confirmed cases in Iran, which did not report its first case of the virus until Wednesday.

In Italy’s northern Lombardy region, which includes the nation’s financial capital Milan, the governor announced the number of confirmed cases stood at 110.

Italy now has the latest number of cases outside Asia with 152 cases and three deaths with the most recent on Sunday.

Warning that China’s virus epidemic is “still grim and complex,” President Xi Jinping called for more efforts to stop the outbreak, revive industry and prevent the disease from disrupting spring planting of crops.

Mr Xi defended the ruling Communist Party’s response as “timely and effective” in a video conference with officials in charge of anti-disease work, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

“The current epidemic situation is still grim and complex,” Xinhua quoted Mr Xi as saying.

“Prevention and control are at the most critical stage.”

The number of deaths in mainland China stands at 2,592, while 77,345 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the country.

Speaking at an emergency press conference, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said: “We have decided that in the areas identified as decease outbreaks, entry and exit are not allowed unless specific exceptions are permitted assessed on a case-by-case basis.”

A resident of one the quarantined towns near Milan told Euronews: “We’re trying to remain calm because in those situations it’s easy to panic.

“We go to buy food supplies because we don’t know if the supermarkets will stay open.

“We hope everything will be fine.”

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French junior transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said on Monday that he saw no need to close down transport borders between France and Italy, despite the spread of coronavirus.

“Closing down the borders would make no sense, as the circulation of the virus is not just limited to administrative borders,” Djebbari told BFM Business.

Cases of coronavirus in Italy, the most affected country in Europe, rose on Saturday to more than 150, with three deaths, prompting the Government to close off the worst-hit areas in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto.

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