Italian towns on lockdown after 2 virus deaths

Updated: Feb 23, 2020, 08:02 IST | Agencies | Codogno

More than 50,000 people asked to stay home in Italy after deaths; window of containment 'narrowing' after Iran deaths, WHO warns

A man wearing a surgical mask rides his bicycle in Codogno. Pic/AFP
A man wearing a surgical mask rides his bicycle in Codogno. Pic/AFP

A dozen northern Italian towns were on effective lockdown on Saturday after the new virus linked to China claimed two lives in Italy and sickened an increasing number of people, who had no direct links to the origin of the virus.

The secondary contagions prompted local authorities in towns in Lombardy and Veneto to order schools, businesses and restaurants closed, and to cancel sporting events and Masses. The mayor of Milan, the business capital of Italy, shuttered public offices.

Hundreds of people, who came into contact with more than 25 people confirmed infected in Italy, were kept in isolation pending test results, and civil protection crews set up a tent camp outside a closed hospital in Veneto to screen medical staff for the virus.

In hard-hit Codogno, where the first patient of the northern cluster to fall ill was in critical condition, main street was practically a ghost town on Saturday, with supermarkets, restaurants and businesses closed.

Seven cases were reported in the Veneto region, including that of a 78-year-old man who died late on Friday, said the Veneto regional president, Luca Zaia. “You can get it from anyone,” Zaia said. “We can expect to have cases of patients who had no contact with suspected carriers.” The numbers of infected had topped 25.

Coronavirus cases in UAE increases to 11

Two more people in the UAE have tested positive for the deadly coronavirus, taking the total number of such cases to 11, health authorities said on Saturday. The two male patients include a 34-year-old from Philippines and a 39-year-old from Bangladesh, who got infected as they were in direct contact with the Chinese patients recently diagnosed with the virus, the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) said in a statement. The death toll in China’s novel coronavirus climbed to 2,345 with 109 more deaths reported. A team of WHO experts is expected to visit Wuhan, which is worst affected.

Iran reports 1 death among 10 new cases

Iran on Saturday reported one more death among 10 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of deaths in the Islamic republic to five and infections to 28. “We have 10 new confirmed cases of COVID-19,” health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said on state television. “One of the new cases has unfortunately passed away,” he added, noting that eight of them had been hospitalised in Qom and two in Tehran, without specifying where the death occurred. The COVID-19 outbreak first emerged in Iran on Wednesday, when officials said it killed two elderly people in Qom.

South Korea reports 142 more cases

South Korea reported 142 more coronavirus cases on Saturday, the sharpest spike in infections yet, with more than half of the new cases linked to a hospital in a southern city.
The national toll of 346 is now the second-highest outside of China. Mayor Kwon Young-jin made a nationally televised appeal Friday for those preventative measures, warning that a rash of new cases could overwhelm the health system. He pleaded for help from the country’s central government. China said the daily count of new virus cases has fallen significantly to 397.

Hong Kong residents hit by mask scam

About 100 Hong Kong residents have fallen victim to mask scams orchestrated by a suspected organised gang on Facebook, according to an official who has received hundreds more complaints about similar incident amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Scammers advertised boxes of 100 surgical masks for sale at up to HK$400 each on social media platform but they did not deliver the products after receiving the payment, said a report citing council member Ramon Yuen Hoi-man, from the Democratic Party, as saying on Friday.Yuen, who accompanied four victims reporting the deceptions at a police Station on Friday, said the victims had lost HK$60,000 in total.

“Some of the pages left the same contact numbers and used the same wording in their posts. The scammers are very cunning because they change their logos and names to avoid being spotted,” he said. Yuen added that several pages appeared legitimate with thousands of “likes”, while administrators kept up the facade by hiding or deleting negative comments. The coronavirus outbreak triggered a shortage of masks in Hong Kong earlier this month.

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