The North of Italy is preparing to live in days of anxiety and restrictions after a sudden and spectacular outbreak of cases of the new coronavirus.
Venice Carnival stopped, 11 cities in quarantine for two weeks and three deaths: Northern Italy is preparing to live days of anxiety and restrictions after a sudden and spectacular outbreak of cases of the new coronavirus in three days.
Read also: Coronavirus: 11 Italian cities in quarantine, France is preparing for a possible “epidemic”
The discovery of several outbreaks on Friday, the day when the first death of an Italian (and a European) was announced, then the rapid multiplication of cases, increased from six to almost 150 on Sunday, worries the authorities and the local population.
Entre la mise en place progressive de points de contrôle des forces de l’ordre et les problèmes d’approvisionnement, les temps s’annoncent durs pour la ville de Codogno et la dizaine de municipalités dans ses environs frappées par l’épidémie du nouveau #coronavirus #AFP pic.twitter.com/CjJoGrvPIQ
— Agence France-Presse (@afpfr) February 23, 2020
“Virus Paralysis”, headlines the major newspaper Repubblica. All the media publish decalogues on how to avoid contagion or explain the epidemic to children.
Officially, Italy now has 149 cases, which makes it the most affected country in Europe, since the viral pneumonia epidemic started in China in December. Almost 90 of these cases are found in Lombardy (region of Milan) and 25 in Veneto (region of Venice).
“The number will increase”
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, interviewed on the popular television show Domenica In on the public channel Rai Uno, called for “not to succumb to panic and to follow the instructions of the health authorities”. “We should not be afraid that the number of cases will increase further,” he added.
According to the head of civil protection Angelo Borrelli, military structures and hotels are already ready to accommodate thousands of people who could be placed in quarantine.
— Agence France-Presse (@afpfr) February 23, 2020
Two main outbreaks have been identified: around Codogno, in Lombardy where a second death (a 77-year-old woman) was announced on Saturday, and in Vo’Euganeo, near Padua (Veneto), where the first fatal case of a 78-year-old pensioner had been registered.
A new death
Authorities in Lombardy also announced Sunday the death of an elderly woman with cancer who contracted the new coronavirus.
The government has passed a very strict decree that isolates 11 cities, including 10 in the area of Codogno. “Neither entry nor exit will be allowed unless specifically waived,” said Giuseppe Conte.
Sunday, the Veneto also decreed the interruption of the celebrations of the famous Carnival which was to end on Tuesday, and of the sporting events as well as the closing of all schools.
In Lombardy, restrictive measures are now affecting the metropolis of Milan, the economic capital of Italy, with the closure of schools, universities, but also museums, cinemas and theatres including the prestigious Scala. Authorities are studying the closure of certain stores, but public services remain open.
Milan fashion week disturbed
Even Milan fashion week until then “quiet”, according to its organizers, was disturbed: the maestro Giorgio Armani, 85 years old, and the stylist Laura Biagiotti decided to parade closed doors Sunday and retransmit their presentations for the fall-winter 2020 on their site.
In the 11 quarantined cities, all public places (bars, town hall restaurants, libraries, schools) except pharmacies, were closed on Friday.
The main focus is around Codogno, a town of 15,000 people, many of whom work around or in Milan, 60 km away.
The trains of the private company Trenord no longer stop in Codogno or in two neighbouring cities, many of whose residents work in Milan. Luminous signs announce: “Coronavirus, the population is invited to stay at home, as a precautionary measure”.
In the neighbouring town of Casalpusterlengo, a police car stops all vehicles travelling in both directions on the main artery connecting the various villages.
“We will quickly set up a total blockade,” a police officer told AFP on Sunday afternoon, stressing that the agents inform “people that if they enter, they will not be able to leave and vice versa”.
The government has imposed penalties of up to three months’ imprisonment for violators.
But the residents’ great fear is that of running out of food. All-day long, in Casalpusterlengo, lines formed in front of the Lidl supermarket, one of the only ones open.
Coronavirus: cet étudiant français en Italie fait part d’une “angoisse permanente” et d’un racisme anti-asiatique pic.twitter.com/TesYWIA1CO
— BFMTV (@BFMTV) February 23, 2020
No patient zero yet
Patient 1 for Lombardy is a 38-year-old man, Mattia, part of the Anglo-Dutch multinational Unilever, which has an important site near Codogno, in Casalpusterlengo, where 120 of the 160 employees have been tested.
Its contamination remains a mystery: it is excluded that it was contaminated by one of his friends returned from China in January, because this one, “on the basis of the tests carried out, did not develop the antibodies”, according to the Ministry of Health.
The WHO recognizes that “the rapid increase in cases registered in Italy over the past two days is worrying,” according to a spokesperson. “What also worries us is that we have not been able to identify in all cases clear epidemiological links such as trips to China or contacts with a confirmed case.”
The other contamination zone is Vo ‘Euganeo, near Padua. Authorities tested 8 Chinese nationals who frequented the same bar as the mason who died on Friday but was found to be negative. The boss of the region Luca Zaia said he was “concerned” that the zero patient was not found, which proves for him, that “the virus is much more ubiquitous than we thought”.