Coronavirus: Italy death toll soars amid travel ban

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Media captionMilan quarantine resident: ‘It’s really important to be responsible in this moment’

The number of people to have died from the coronavirus in Italy has shot up by 133 in a day to 366, officials say.

The total number of infections leapt 25% to 7,375 from 5,883, according to the Civil Protection agency.

The jump in figures comes as millions adapt to radical measures introduced on Sunday in an attempt to contain the outbreak.

Up to 16 million people in Lombardy and 14 provinces need special permission to travel under new quarantine rules.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte also announced the closure of schools, gyms, museums, nightclubs and other venues across the whole country.

The restrictions will last until 3 April.

The latest figures mean Italy now has the highest number of confirmed infections outside China, where the outbreak originated in December. It has overtaken South Korea, where the total number of cases is 7,313.

Among the latest people to test positive in Italy is the army’s chief of staff. Salvatore Farina said he felt well and was self-isolating.

The strict new quarantine measures affect a quarter of the Italian population and centre on the rich northern part of the country that powers its economy.

The health system is under immense strain in Lombardy, a northern region of 10 million people, where people are being treated in hospital corridors.

“We want to guarantee the health of our citizens. We understand that these measures will impose sacrifices, sometimes small and sometimes very big,” Prime Minister Conte said as he announced the measures in the middle of Saturday night.

Under the new measures, people are not supposed to be able to enter or leave Lombardy, where Milan is the main city.

The same restrictions apply to 14 provinces: Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia, Rimini, Pesaro and Urbino, Alessandria, Asti, Novara, Verbano Cusio Ossola, Vercelli, Padua, Treviso and Venice.

The UK Foreign Office advises against all but essential travel to these areas.

Some transport in and out of the regions affected continued on Sunday. Flights still arrived at Milan’s Malpensa and Linate airports, though some scheduled flights were cancelled.

However, Italy’s national carrier Alitalia said it would suspend all operations from Malpensa from Monday and Linate would only serve domestic routes. International flights would continue to and from Rome.

The World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised Italy for making “genuine sacrifices” with the restrictions. Until Sunday only about 50,000 people in northern Italy had been affected by quarantines.

Last week the government announced the closure of all schools and universities across the country for 10 days.

What is the situation elsewhere?

The number of infections worldwide is more than 107,000, with about 3,600 deaths.

Most of the fatalities have been in China. But the country on Sunday reported its lowest number of new infections in a single day since January – an indication that the virus’s spread there is slowing.

Iran, one of the worst hotspots outside China, has now confirmed 6,566 infections and 194 deaths.

However, the real figure is feared to be much higher. One report on Sunday, quoting a government envoy, said there had been 200 deaths in the northern Gilan province alone – but the figures were later removed.

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Media captionPope Francis on videolink address: “The Pope is caged in the library”

In other developments:

  • Portugal’s president says he will self-isolate at home after meeting pupils from a school that was shut after one of its pupils was admitted to hospital
  • Saudi Arabia has suspended classes at all schools and universities until further notice. Earlier, the governorate of Qatif in the oil-producing Eastern Province was put into lockdown
  • France has banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people
  • Pope Francis delivered his first live-streamed Sunday prayer to avoid the usual crowds forming – he said he was “close through prayer” with those suffering from the epidemic
  • Oregon became the latest US state to declare a state of emergency after cases there doubled to 14

In the US more than 400 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19, and the death toll is 19.

Among other countries to report a rise in the total number of cases are: France (to 1,126); Germany (939); Spain (589); the UK (273); the Netherlands (265).

Colombia, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Malta, the Maldives and Paraguay have, meanwhile, all reported their first cases.

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Media captionAll schools and colleges in China have been closed for more than two weeks in the fight against coronavirus


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