Towns in northern Italy locked down as coronavirus cases surge

Tens of thousands of Italians are preparing for a weeks-long quarantine in the country's north.

Tens of thousands of Italians are preparing for a weeks-long quarantine in the country's north. Photo: Getty

An elderly woman with cancer has become the the third person to die in Italy after contracting the coronavirus.

Her death came just 48 hours after two other elderly patients succumbed to the virus.

Italy has recorded the largest number of deadly COVID-19 infections outside China, making it Europe’s biggest outbreak so far.

Neighbouring Austria has halted all train traffic to and from Italy following fears that a train had two people on board who may have been infected with coronavirus.

The train, from Venice to Munich, was stopped at the Brenner crossing on the Italian side on Sunday night.

Austria, which shares its southern border with Italy, has expressed concern about the recent outbreak of the virus in the north of the country.

In just two days, cases of the infection in Italy surged from two to 152 – 110 of them in Lombardy, in the country’s north.

After the dramatic jump, Veneto’s regional governor, Luca Zaia, announced the world-famous Venice Carnival, a popular tourist attraction that draws people from all over Europe, would be cancelled.

Other public events, including masses and sports matches, have also been cancelled in the region, as a travel ban to and from an area near Milan was implemented.

About 50,000 people will have little choice but to stay home following the government’s decision to place several towns in lockdown.

Meanwhile, disinfection work has started on buses, trains and other forms of public transport — including boats in Venice.

In China, President Xi Jinping described the coronavirus “crisis” as “a big test” of the country’s system of “epidemic prevention and control” which is “turning out good” so far.

“The novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic was a major public health emergency with the fastest spread, the widest range of infections, and the most difficult to prevent and control in China since the founding of the New China,” Mr Xi said.

He said the epidemic’s impact “is short-term and generally controllable”.

Nevertheless, it “will inevitably have a great impact on the economy and society. We must look at our country’s development in a comprehensive, dialectical, and long-term perspective,” he added.

President Xi Jinping said China was doing a good job of controlling the outbreak. Photo: Getty

Fears of the coronavirus spreading to economically weak countries have forced Turkey and Pakistan to temporarily close their borders with Iran.

“We have decided to shut the land border temporarily after an increase in the number of cases in our neighbour Iran,” Turkish health minister Fahrettin Koca said.

Pakistan has followed suit.

“We have closed our border with Iran because of the reports of coronavirus there,” said Pakistan government official Ayesha Zehri said.

-with agencies

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