(CODOGNO, Italy) — A dozen towns in northern Italy effectively went into lockdown Saturday after the deaths of two people infected with the new virus from China and a growing cluster of cases with no direct links to the origin of the outbreak abroad.
The secondary contagions prompted local authorities in the Lombardy and Veneto regions to close schools, businesses and restaurants and to cancel sporting events and Masses. The mayor of Milan, the business capital of Italy, shuttered public offices.
Hundreds of residents and workers who came into contact with an estimated 54 people confirmed infected in Italy were in isolation pending test results. Civil protection crews set up a tent camp outside a closed hospital in Veneto to screen medical staff for the virus.
In the town of Codogno, where the first patient identified in the northern cluster was in critical condition, closed supermarkets, restaurants and shops made main street practically a ghost town. The few people out wore face masks, which were coveted items after selling out at pharmacies.
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