12 Italy Towns on Lock Down After Two Coronavirus Deaths

Workers wear masks at the Unilever factory where a 38-year-old working in the research and development branch fall ill with the new virus from China, in Casalpusterlengo, Northern Italy, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. A dozen northern Italian towns were on effective lockdown Saturday after the new virus linked to China claimed two fatalities in Italy and sickened an increasing number of people who had no direct links to the origin of the virus. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Schools, businesses and restaurant were closed in a dozen northern Italian towns Saturday following reports of two deaths tied to an outbreak of the coronavirus in the region.

A female resident in the Lombardy region died only hours after a 77-year-old man succumbed near Padua, in the Veneto region, the ANSA news agency reported, citing health care sources.

Italy reports a total of 62 cases, many of them representing the first infections in the country via secondary contagion, that is, not directly from a visitor to China.

The deaths come a day after health officials at the World Health Organization warned that attempts to contain the virus that erupted in China in December were at a crisis point.

“Although the window of opportunity is narrowing to contain the outbreak, we still have a chance to contain it,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “But while doing that, we have to prepare at the same time for any eventualities, because this outbreak could go any direction – it could even be messy.”

Local authorities in Lombardy and Veneto ordered the lockdown, including the cancellation of sporting events, while the mayor of Milan, the business capital of Italy, shuttered public offices. In Veneto, civil protection crews set up a tent camp outside a closed hospital, where several confirmed cases were being held in isolation, to screen medical staff for the virus.

In hard-hit Codogno, where the first patient in the north to fall ill was in critical condition, the main street was practically a ghost town Saturday. The few people out on the streets wore hard-to-get face masks.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Doug Stanlin