Italian coronavirus death toll jumps to 107, all schools shut

Reuters , Wednesday 4 Mar 2020

Italy closed all schools and universities and prepared other emergency measures on Wednesday to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus in Europe’s worst-hit country as the death toll and number of cases jumped.

Twenty-eight people died of the highly contagious illness in Italy over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of dead to 107, the Civil Protection Agency said.

Education Minister Lucia Azzolina said schools and universities all over the country would be closed from Thursday until at least March 15.

Those in the northern regions most heavily affected by the epidemic have been closed so far.

The number of cases since the outbreak surfaced 13 days ago rose to 3,089 from 2,502 on Tuesday. Of those who contracted the disease, about 3.5% had died, the head of the agency, Angelo Borrelli, said.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told reporters the government was preparing a decree to try to slow infections which have been rising by about 500 per day.

 “Our hospitals, despite their efficiency, risk being overwhelmed, we have a problem with intensive-care units,” Conte said, adding he would outline the new measures later on Wednesday.

A draft of the decree seen by Reuters orders “the suspension of events of any nature ... that entail the concentration of people and do not allow for a safety distance of at least one meter (yard) to be respected.”

It calls for the closure of cinemas and theaters, and tells Italians not to shake hands or hug each other and to avoid “direct physical contact with all people.”

It also orders all major sporting events, including top flight Serie A soccer matches, to be played in empty stadiums.

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