CORONAVIRUS ALERT | Italy’s Coronavirus Outbreak Spread From Its Northern Epicenter

ROME – Italy’s coronavirus outbreak began spreading on Tuesday from its origins in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto, with new cases reported in central Tuscany, the coastal region of Liguaria and Sicily in the south.

Sicily’s regional governor Nello Musumeci said a tourist from Bergamo, in Lombardy, had been hospitalized in the island’s capital Palermo after being diagnosed with illness, and all those travelling with her had been quarantined.

The total number of cases in Italy, the country in Europe worst affected, rose to more than 280 from 229 on Monday, with 40 new cases reported in Lombardary and nine new ones in Veneto. Two cases were reported in Tuescany and one in Liguria.

The number of deaths was unchanged at seven.

An Italian on holiday in the Canary Islands also tested positive, triggering a lockdown of the 4-Star hotel he was staying in while two other Italian nationals were found positive in Austria, where they live.

They were believed to have contracted the virus during a trip to Lombardy.

As a swathe of European Union countries advised their citizens not to visit northern Italy, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said he would meet foreign ambassadors in Rome to explain the progress of the outbreak and measures taken to counter it.

The health emergency had yielded a fragile political truce between Italy’s warring parties which collapsed late on Monday after Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte suggested malpractice at a hospital in Lombardy may have fuelled the outbreak.

Conte said the hospital, which he did not name, hat not followed the correct protocol ‘and this contributed to the spread’, adding that he may consider withdrawing some of the powers the regions had over health policy.

The right-wing, opposition League party, which runs both Lombardy and Veneto, reacted furiously.

Its lower-house leader Riccardo Molinari said Conte’s words were ‘almost fascist’ while the League’s economics spokesman Claudi Borghi called the premier ‘a disgrace to the country’.

Lombardy Governor Attilio Fontana accused Conte of a ‘desperation strategy…probably trying to attack others to distract attention (from himself)’.

Officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Union were due to meet in Rome on Tuesday to discuss the crisis, which first broke out in China and had now spread to almost 30 other countries and territories.

Budget Leeway

As economists warned that the outbreak in Italy would probably tip its already stagnant economy into recession, a senior official said the government may need to call on the European Union to offer leeway on its budget targets.

‘There are resources the EU can give us in relation  to economic events that could lower GDP considerably’, Deputy Economy Minister Laura Castelli told RAI radio.

Italy has proportionally the highest public debt in the euro zone after Greece’s and has long struggled to respect the bloc’s strict borrowing rules.

Milan cathedral was closed to visitors, the Venice carnival, one of the world’s premier tourist attractions, was shut early for the first time in decades and airlines began restricting flight to Italy.

While the authorities urged people to remain calm, the upper house Senate in Rome obliged all parliamentarians and visitors to undergo a temperature check before entering the building.

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