Coronavirus: Italy shuts all schools and universities as deaths rise #COVID19 #coronavirus #Italy #emergency #quarantine #epidemic

Coronavirus Alert

Italy is shutting all schools and universities in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Italian authorities say 107 people have died and 3,089 have been infected, making it by some distance the worst-affected European nation.

Only schools in the north of the country, where the coronavirus outbreak is centred, had closed so far, but the wider shutdown will last until 15 March.

Announcing the move, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the country’s health service risked being overwhelmed.

Italy’s sports minister has also said the government is likely to order all top division football matches to be played in empty stadiums until the situation stabilises.

Authorities also plan to extend the quarantine “red zone” to some municipalities in the Bergamo area.

The outbreak is currently centred on the Lombardy region around Milan, and neighbouring regions of Veneto and Emilia Romagna.

Museums, cinemas and other public places have closed and many events such as fashion shows and trade fairs have been cancelled.

But cases have been reported around the country, including 18 in Sicily and at least 20 people in Rome’s Spallanzani infectious diseases hospital.

Tunisia also said on Wednesday that it was halting ferry services to northern Italy.

Italy’s educational shutdown comes as countries such as Poland, Hungary, Ukraine and Morocco reported their first cases of the virus.

Italy’s national health institute has told people to remain at least a metre apart, stop hugging each other and avoid crowded places.

The fatality rate from COVID-19 in the country is around 3.16%.

Italy’s weak economic growth is likely to suffer significantly – particularly the huge tourist sector as holidaymakers pull the plug and airlines cut flights.

An exhibition of the Renaissance artist Raphael, which has sold nearly 70,000 tickets, is also threatened.

Organisers at the Scuderie del Quirinale gallery in Rome said they are “keeping our fingers crossed and praying it can go ahead as planned” on Thursday.

Courtesy of Sky News

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