Prime minister orders lockdown in northern Italy; global deaths 3,799

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which is the oldest active shopping mall in the Lombardian capital of Milan, is nearly deserted. The Italian authorities have taken the drastic measure of shutting off the entire northern Italian region. Photo by Matteo Corner/EPA-EFE

March 8 (UPI) — Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Sunday signed a decree that places several million residents of northern Italy into lockdown as the death toll from the coronavirus reached 366 in the nation, the most outside mainland China where the outbreak began two months ago.

Worldwide, a total of 3,799 people have died and there are 109,575 cases, according to tracking by Johns Hopkins. A total of 60,693 have recovered.

On Sunday night, Italy’s Civil Protection announced there were 133 additional deaths and 1,492 new cases since Saturday for a total of 7,375. One day earlier, there were 1,247 cases and 197 deaths.

The lockdown affects the entire Lombardy region, which has 10 million residents, and Includes, and 14 other provinces that comprise 14 million: Venice, Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia, Rimini, Pesaro and Urbino, Alessandria, Asti, Novara, Verbano Cusio Ossola, Vercelli, Padua and Treviso.

The lockdown is through April 3.

“We want to protect the health of all citizens,” Conte said in a statement. “We are aware that this will create unease and that these measures will be a sacrifice, big and small. But this is the time to be responsible.”

Some measures also apply to the entire nation: the suspension of schools, university classes, theaters and cinemas, as well as bars, nightclubs, and sports events. Also, religious ceremonies, including funerals, also will be suspended.

Pope Francis delivered the weekly Angelus prayer via video link in the Vatican in southern Italy, saying it was quite unusual to be “locked away.”

“We do this so that the close concentration of people won’t spread the virus,” he said via video.

Francis, who scrapped an appearance last Sunday because of a cold, prayed for those suffering from the outbreak and for those assisting them.

After the prayer, the pope appeared from the window to bless the few people at St. Peter’s Square.

Leading Italian politician Nicola Zingaretti said Saturday he had tested positive for the virus.

“I am fine but I will have to stay home for the next few days”, the leader of Italy’s centre-left Democratic Party said in a Facebook post.

Since the first death was reported on Jan. 11 in Wuhan, China, the outbreak has grown exponentially.

“Allowing uncontrolled spread should not be a choice of any government, as it will harm not only the citizens of that country but affect other countries as well,” the World Health Organization said Saturday. “We must stop, contain, control, delay and reduce the impact of this virus at every opportunity. Every person has the capacity to contribute, to protect themselves, to protect others, whether in the home, the community, the healthcare system, the workplace or the transport system. ”

WHO called on “all countries to continue efforts that have been effective in limiting the number of cases and slowing the spread of the virus.”

It noted: “China and other countries are demonstrating that spread of the virus can be slowed and impact reduced through the use of universally applicable actions, such as working across society to identify people who are sick, bringing them to care, following up on contacts, preparing hospitals and clinics to manage a surge in patients, and training health workers.”

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Although all but few hundred deaths and about 80,000 cases have occurred in mainland China, the nation has seen a significant drop in the outbreak.

The National Health Commission on Sunday reported 3,097 deaths and 80,695 confirmed cases. That is an increase of 27 deaths and 44 new confirmed cases. So far, 674,038 people have been identified as having close contact with infected patients and 23,974 are under close supervision.

Outside mainland China, there have been three deaths in Hong Kong, including a 76-year-old woman Sunday, and one in Taiwan.

A hotel where people were being quarantined collapsed in southeastern China on Saturday. The death toll rose to 10 with 23 people missing and 38 hospitalized. A total of 71 people were believed to be staying at the hotel, including 58 under quarantine.

The other large clusters are centered in Iran with 194 deaths and 6,566 confirmed cases, and South Korea with 50 deaths and 7,314 cases. In the United States there are 19 deaths — the fourth most in the world — and 449 cases, including 49 repatriated — three from Wuhan and 46 from the Diamond Princess. In addition, 21 are on the Grand Princess cruise ship, which is being held off Northern California’s coast.

In South Korea, an apartment complex is under lockdown after one third of its 140 residents became infected with the novel coronavirus in the city of Daegu, according to the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Japan, a man from Hong Kong who was a passenger on the Diamond Princess had died of the coronavirus on Friday in Japan, the eighth death associated with the ship that had been quarantined with 696 cases. Another six people have died in Japan from the outbreak. In all, there are 461 cases.

France has the fourth-most number of cases: 949. The death toll there is 16.

On Sunday, France banned gatherings of more 1,000 in attendance at an event from the previous 5,000. The ban doesn’t not apply to the Louvre, which reopened last week after being closed for three days, because the museum includes several rooms.

Worldwide, several events have been canceled or altered.

The Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix race weekend on March 20-22 will be held without spectators and fans will be able to only watch on television, event organizers said on Sunday. It has had 85 cases and no deaths. The Louvre opened last week after being closed for two days.

The two-week International Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Canada was canceled Saturday. It was set to open March 31.

The Amazing Race has stopped filming, the release of No Time to Die has been delayed until November, theme parks in Japan are closed, and the National Museum of Korea and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in South Korea are shut.

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