Italy orders all schools and universities to close as coronavirus death toll passes 100

Italy orders all schools and universities to close as coronavirus death toll passes 100
An information sign advises residents of coronavirus measures in a town in the nothern Italian region of Lombardy, the worst-affected part of Italy. Photo: AFP
The Italian government ordered the closure of all schools and universities in the country over the novel coronavirus on Wednesday as new figures showed the death toll had passed 100.

The Italian government confirmed that Italy's schools and universities would close on Thursday until at least March 15 as a precaution amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The government decision was announced moments after health officials said the death toll from COVID-19 had jumped to 107 and the number of cases had passed 3,000.

(These numbers are changing constantly: view the latest figures here.)

28 more people have died in the past 24 hours, bringing the toll to 107 – the highest number of fatalities outside China – while the number of cases reached 3,089 as of Wednesday evening.

 
This is the total number of people in Italy confirmed to have contracted the virus since the beginning of the outbreak, including the deceased and around 300 recovered patients.
 
The blanket school closure was decided on Wednesday as top government ministers met to agree new measures to combat the spread of the virus.
 
“We are focused on taking all measures for direct containment or delaying the spread of the virus,” said Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
 
“The health system risks going into overload and we will have a problem with intensive care if an exponential crisis continues.”
 
Other measures being brought in include an unpopular plan to play all Serie A football matches without fans until April 3.
 
Schools were already closed this week in the northern regions worst hit by the emergency: Lombardy, Veneto, and Emilia-Romagna, and in some other municipalities around the country.
 
The government's other measures included an unpopular month-long nationwide ban on fan attendance at football matches and other major sporting events.
 
The Italian government on Wednesday also issued new guidance aimed at preventing the spread of the virus.

Rules in place for the next 30 days include no hugging or handshakes, and over-75s are advised to stay at home.

MAP: Which parts of Italy are affected by coronavirus outbreak?

On Wednesday, Reuters reported that a draft of the new emergency decree also contained a ban on public events across the whole country and provisions for the closure of all cinemas and theatres.

Numerous events have already been cancelled (CLICK HERE for full list) and sporting events will take place behind closed doors for the next few weeks at least.

Most cases are still concentrated in the “yellow zone” regions of Lombardy, Veneto, and Emilia Romagna, but all but one of Italy's 20 regions have now reported cases of the virus.

The overwhelming majority of the fatalities have occurred in Milan's Lombardy region as well as Emilia Romagna and Veneto.

Infections are slowly reaching Italy's less wealthy and developed south.

The government reported the first death south of Rome on Wednesday. It came in the Puglia region that surrounds the city of Bari in the heel of the Italian boot on the map.

A top civil protection official told AFP that most of those who have died in the past few days were in their 80s and 90s and were already suffering from other pathologies.

Top government minister spent hours huddling Wednesday to chart a way out of a health crisis that threatens to tip Italy's wheezing economy into recession and overwhelm hospitals.

Most of the steps being considered involve ways to avoid crowds and keep people from coming in contact with each other outdoors.

All these measures are meant to stay in place for a month and be reviewed and possibly fine-tuned after two weeks.

 
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