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Coronavirus spreads to southern Italy as Switzerland, Austria and Croatia report cases

Here at home the National Public Health Emergency Team is meeting to monitor the situation and advance preparedness plans.

People wear masks as they walk in Milan.
People wear masks as they walk in Milan.
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Updated Feb 25th 2020, 3:20 PM

THE CORONAVIRUS IN Italy has spread south to to Tuscany and Sicily. 

The development comes as the country’s civil protection agency reports a surge in the number of infected people. 

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has blamed poor management in a hospital in the country’s north for the outbreak, which has caused seven deaths in Italy so far and infected the largest number of people in Europe.

Elsewhere this afternoon Spanish authorities are reporting the first case of the virus on the mainland, while Switzerland also confirmed the country’s first case. 

Here at home the National Public Health Emergency Team is meeting “to monitor the situation in Europe and globally, and to advance preparedness plans for Ireland”.

It’s expected a statement will be issued this evening at the conclusion of the meeting. 

To date there have been no confirmed cases of Covid-19 here. 

Italy 

Irish citizens are currently being advised against travelling to the following towns, in light of the increase in cases:

  • Codogno
  • Castiglione d’Adda
  • Casalpusterlengo
  • Fombio
  • Maleo
  • Somaglia
  • Bertonico
  • Terranova dei Passerini
  • Castelgerundo 
  • San Fiorano

The Department of Foreign Affairs adds in its latest advice, updated yesterday: 

The regions of Lombardy, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Piemonte and Emilia Romagna have put certain restrictions in place, including in relation to events, and the temporary closure of educational and cultural institutions.

Tuscany today reported its first two cases, including one in the tourist destination of Florence, while Sicily recorded one – a tourist from the worst-hit Lombardy region, where 212 people have tested positive.

The Liguria region, known as the Italian Riviera, also reported its first case, but cautioned that the definitive result for the 70-year-old still needed to come from Italy’s infectious diseases institute.

Health ministers from neighbouring countries were to meet in Rome as the number of confirmed infections jumped to 283, with over 50 new cases reported since yesterday. 

Tenerife 

Hundreds of people were confined to their rooms in a Tenerife hotel after an Italian tourist was hospitalised with suspected coronavirus, health officials in the Canary Islands said.

A number of Irish nationals staying in the area have also made contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs. 

Croatia also confirmed the first case in the Balkans region after a young man who recently returned from Italy – which lies across the Adriatic from Croatia – was found to have become infected.

Austria also saw its first two cases confirmed on Tuesday in the Tyrol province, which borders Italy.

One of the two patients is from Lombardy, but it is not yet clear how they contracted the virus.

While no neighbouring country has closed its borders with Italy, several governments have announced additional measures for incoming travellers, in particular from the two northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto.

They range from medical screening to special gates at airports and recommendations to self-isolate.

Conte insisted however that Italy’s health protocols were “among the most rigorous” and warned it would be “unfair” for other countries to attempt to limit the movement of Italians, saying “we wouldn’t be able to accept that”.

He said it was safe for Italians to travel, both for them and for others.

Iran 

In Iran, the deputy health minister has been infected with the coronavirus amid a major outbreak in the country.

“The coronavirus test for Mr Iraj Harirchi, the deputy health minister who was on the front lines combating the coronavirus, was positive,” Alireza Vahabzadeh, a media adviser to the health minister, said in a tweet.

Harirchi coughed occasionally and appeared to be sweating during a press conference yesterday with government spokesman Ali Rabiei.

Clusters of the illness have been reported across Iran and there are concerns the new outbreaks could signal a serious new stage in the global spread of the illness.

- With reporting from Daragh Brophy 

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