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Italy towns shut schools, businesses after recording first coronavirus death in Europe

A street in the northern Italian town of Codogno, where officials have told residents to stay home and suspend public activities amid a spike in cases of coronavirus.
A street in the northern Italian town of Codogno, where officials have told residents to stay home and suspend public activities amid a spike in cases of coronavirus. © Reuters

The first European to succumb to the coronavirus has died in Italy, just hours after 10 towns were locked down following a flurry of new cases.

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A 78-year-old Italian from the Veneto region who had tested positive for the virus died in hospital, where he had recovered some 10 days earlier for an unrelated health issue, Italy's health minister said. 

Adriano Trevisan, a retired bricklayer from the village of Vo' Euganeo near Padua, had been diagnosed with the virus on an initial test, but the definitive results were still outstanding. A 67-year-old from the same village as Trevisan has also tested positive.

Veneto region head Luca Zaia said earlier Friday "a sanitary ring" would be created around Vo' Euganeo, and all 3,300 inhabitants would be tested.

Fifteen other new cases represented the first infections in Italy acquired through secondary contagion and brought the country's total to 17. The cluster was located in a handful of tiny towns around Lodi, in the Lombardy region, said the Lombardy regional health chief Giulio Gallera.

Five doctors and 10 other people tested positive for the virus in Lombardy, after apparently frequenting the same bar and group of friends, authorities said at a press conference.

Over 50,000 people have been asked to stay at home in the areas concerned, while all public activities such as carnival celebrations, church masses and sporting events have been banned for up to a week.

Health ministry issues quarantine order

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte declared "everything is under control", and stressed the government was maintaining "an extremely high level of precaution".

Streets in the 10 Italian towns were deserted, with only a few people seen abroad, and signs showing public spaces closed.

In Casalpusterlengo, a large electronic message board outside the town hall read "Coronavirus: the population is invited to remain indoors as a precaution".

 Health Minister Roberto Speranza said authorities were working out exactly who those with the virus had been in contact with and screening them all, "as the most effective way to contain the virus".

The first town to be shuttered was Codogno, with a population of 15,000, where three people tested positive for the virus, including a 38-year-old man and his wife, who is eight months pregnant.

Three others there have tested positive to a first novel coronavirus test and are awaiting their definitive results.

Codogno Mayor Francesco Passerini said the news of the cases "has sparked alarm" throughout the town south of Milan.

The 38-year-old, who works for Unilever in Lodi, was in a serious condition in intensive care.             

 'Extremely worried'                 

He had dined earlier this month with a man who had visited China in January, and had later shown flu-like symptoms, but has since tested negative for the virus, Italian media said.

A football friend of his, the son of a bar owner in Codogno, has also tested positive, along with three regulars at the bar.

The three, all of whom are retired, live in the small town of Castiglione d'Adda. The mayor there said the locals were "extremely worried" about the spread of the deadly disease.

Some 250 people were being placed in isolation after coming into contact with the new cases, according to the Lombardy region, and 60 worker at Unilever have been tested for the virus.

Trenord regional railway said its trains would no longer be stopping in three stations in the affected area.

Three other cases of the virus in Italy are being treated in isolation at the Spallanzani Institute in Rome.
 

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)

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