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Locals in the Lombardy region wearing facemasks. PA
Called Off

Three people dead in Italy as authorities put towns in lockdown in bid to contain coronavirus

A dozen towns in northern Italy effectively went into lockdown on Saturday after the deaths of two people.

LAST UPDATE | 23 Feb 2020

POLICE ARE PATROLLING the perimeters around virus-stricken northern Italian towns as Italy put tens of thousands of people under lockdown and cancels festivals and sporting events in an attempt to halt Europe’s worst outbreak of the new coronavirus.

An elderly cancer patient became the third person who tested positive for the virus to die since Friday in the country, with 149 confirmed cases nationwide.

The mounting number of infections has sparked fears of further contagion and prompted the government to effectively quarantine 11 villages. 

Italy’s first cases – that of a married Chinese couple who were on holiday in Rome – surfaced in early February.

Two deaths – of elderly persons in the north – have also been reported.

Meanwhile, Italian authorities have cancelled Venice’s famed carnival events in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus, as the number of infected persons in the country soared to at least 133.

Veneto regional Governor Luca Zaia said the shutdown will begin this evening.

Carnival, which draws tens of thousands of visitors to the lagoon city, would have run until Tuesday.

Authorities earlier said three people in Venice have tested positive, all of them in their late 80s and who remain in hospital in critical condition. Nearly all of Italy’s cases are clustered in the north, including the north-east Veneto region.

Italians’ Sunday routines – from football to church-going – were hit by the spread of the contagion.

Sports events in the affected northern areas, including local children’s sports team practices and three Serie A matches, were cancelled.

Bishops in several dioceses in northern Italy issued directives that holy water fonts be kept empty, that communion wafers be placed in the hands of the faithful and not directly into their mouths by priests celebrating Mass, and that congregants refrain from shaking hands or exchanging kisses during the symbolic Sign of the Peace ritual.

In a coincidence, the Vatican official in charge of the office dealing with propagating the faith hails from one of the hardest-hit towns, Codogno. Archbishop Rino Fisichella, whose siblings live in the town, declined to dramatise the measures. “It’s obvious that we need to use all necessary prudence,” to avoid spreading the virus among the faithful, he said.

With reporting from AFP. 

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