COVID-19 cases in Italy soars to over 200 as the country continues to contain the outbreak

The Government of Italy is working hard to contain the spread of COVID-19 as the confirmed cases in the country jumped to 229 and seven deaths on Monday (24 February).

Following the biggest outbreak of the virus in Italy, the country has decided to lock down nearly 10 towns in Milan, ban public gathering, shut cinemas and museums, close schools and cancel the famous Venice carnival.

The cases are mostly recorded in the rich regions of Lombardy and Veneto, which includes Milan – one of the most densely populated places in Italy.

The regional governor of Veneto, Mr Luca Zain, told reporters that he had faced many serious natural disaster during his long career, including floods and earthquakes, “but this is the absolutely worst problem that Veneto has faced”.

He added, “As of this evening, there will be a ban on the Venice Carnival as well as on all events, including sporting ones, until March 1 including.”

In Lombardy, the number of people diagnosed with the deadly virus increased to 90 from 54 a day earlier, while in Veneto about 25 people had been confirmed with the COVID-19.

As Europe’s fourth largest economy, the challenge remains for Italy to try and contain the spreading of the virus. The government, a shaky and often squabbling coalition between the Democratic Party and 5-Star Movement, has been disarray for some time now.

Given that this is one of the biggest problems the coalition government has faced, the world will now see if the government can find a common ground and put in place preventive measure to stop the spreading of the virus.

So far, the government’s response, led by health minister Mr Roberto Speranza, has been aggressive.

After the Italian government announced emergency measures on Saturday (22 February), regional and municipal authorities in Italy enacted a number of restrictive ordinances.

According to an ordinance issued by Mr Attilio Dontana, president of the Lombardy region, all public events in the region of Lombardy are cancelled, regardless whether they are “cultural, leisure, religious or sporting” event.

A large number of other venues, apart from those providing important services, have sealed their doors, including most nightclubs, bars, movie theatres, as well as churches. Other regions in Italy have also taken similar moves.

“We invite people to stay at home, to try and contain this phenomenon that we still don’t know, except that it isn’t aggressive but moves quickly,” said Mr Giulio Gallera, the official in charge of health for the Lombardy region.

In Lombardy, 10 town were sealed off after a cluster of cases were detected in the town of Codogno, roughly about 60km south-east of Milan. Close to 50,000 people are affected due to the lockdown.

The outbreak in Codogno started after a 38-year-old man, known as “patient one”, was admitted and confirmed positive with the virus on Thursday. It was reported that the man had the symptoms five days before his admission, possibly allowing the virus to spread.

“Maximum precaution has been taken to protect citizens,” wrote Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Twitter on Sunday.

Two military structures in Lombardy are being prepared to be transformed into isolation camps, while other military sites and hotels have been selected throughout the country.

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