Coronavirus cases surge to 400 in Italy

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The number of coronavirus cases in Italy has jumped to 400, amid international efforts to contain the spread of the deadly outbreak.

The rise in Italy, the main focus of infection in Europe, represents a 25% surge in 24 hours.

Several European countries announced new cases traced to Italy.

Also on Wednesday, the World Health Organization said that for the first time the virus was spreading faster outside China, where it originated.

Globally, more than 80,000 people in about 40 countries have been infected with the new coronavirus, which emerged in December. The vast majority remain in China.

Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, has killed more than 2,700 people so far.

What is the situation in Italy?

Late on Wednesday, authorities reported a total of 400 cases – a rise of 80 from Tuesday night.

The worst-affected areas are in the industrial north of the country – Lombardy, the region around Milan, and Veneto near Venice. The outbreak has killed 12 people in the country so far.

Government officials have sought to reassure the public, and insisted steps were being taken to prevent the spread of the disease.

Schools, universities and cinemas have been closed and several public events cancelled.

Eleven towns at the centre of the outbreak – home to a total of 55,000 people – have been quarantined.

There are fears that the outbreak may tip Italy into economic recession. The BBC’s Mark Lowen in Milan says fear is the reason for the city’s empty cafes and many hotel cancellations.

EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides told reporters after meeting the Italian health minister in Rome: “This is a situation of concern, but we must not give in to panic.

“There are still many unknowns about this virus and in particular its origin and how it spreads.”

More at BBC News

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