Italy now has the highest number of coronavirus-related deaths outside China, having surpassed Iran.
Italy’s health authorities are considering setting up a new quarantine red zone to try to contain the coronavirus outbreak in Europe’s worst-hit country, after the death toll and the number of cases jumped.
Twenty-seven people died of the highly contagious illness in Italy over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of dead to almost 200, the Civil Protection Agency said on friday.
The increase in deaths in Italy was the largest since the outbreak surfaced 12 days ago in the wealthy northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto.
It remains centred in the north, with Lombardy by far the worst affected, but it has since spread south and infections have now been confirmed in all but one of Italy’s 20 regions.
Shortly after the contagion first came to light on February 20, the government imposed a quarantine on two areas – one encompassing 10 Lombardy towns southeast of Milan, and another, smaller red zone in the region of Veneto to the east.
Inhabitants are blocked inside the affected towns and police prevent any outsiders from entering.
The total number of cases rose to 3,800 from 4,700 on friday
One of the dead was aged 55, the youngest patient so far to have succumbed to the illness in Italy. Another was a 61-year-old doctor who was not known to have underlying health problems, unlike the vast majority of previous victims.
“None of us can be sure about the future evolution of the disease. This is an important week to understand what will happen,” Angelo Borrelli, head of the Civil Protection Agency, told a news conference.
A high concentration of new cases has emerged around the city of Bergamo, northeast of the financial capital Milan, and the head of the National Health Institute told reporters a new red zone may be imposed there to try to stem the rise.
Among the new cases announced on Tuesday were two magistrates who worked in Milan’s courtroom and a newborn baby in Bergamo. It was not clear how the child contracted the virus.