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.
Elsewhere, Iranian health authorities on Saturday reported the country’s sixth death from the virus and 10 new cases, raising the country’s total number of cases to 28. The governor of Markazi province told the official IRNA news agency that tests of a patient who recently died in the central city of Arak were positive for the virus.
In another example of the secondary contagion phenomenon, WHO officials said travelers to the Iranian city of Qom have carried the virus to both Lebanon and Canada.
The COVID-19 coronavirus has killed at least 2,360 people and sickened at least 77,900 worldwide, the majority of cases in mainland China.
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35 cases of coronavirus in the US
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday reported that at least 35 people in the United States are infected with the virus. Of those, 14 were travelers who fell ill after returning from a trip abroad, while 21 were were people “repatriated” by the State Department.
Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Friday that more infections are expected from among passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship and are in quarantine.
She said “they are considered at high risk for infection” because they may have come in contact with infected persons on the ship.
Regarding the overall threat to Americans, Messonnier said the CDC is not seeing community spread in the U.S. yet, "but it’s very possible, even likely, that it may eventually happen,” she said.
“Our goal continues to be slowing the introduction of the virus into the U.S. This buys us more time to prepare communities for more cases and possibly sustained spread.”
Chinese doctor who postponed wedding dies in Wuhan
A 29-year-old doctor from Wuhan, China, who postponed his formal wedding ceremony to treat patients of the coronavirus, has died of the illness, according to the Chinese media.
Peng Yinhua, a respiratory acute care medical professional, died Thursday night, the Xinhua news agency reported, quoting the local health bureau.
Peng became infected while working at the First People's Hospital of Jiangxia District of Wuhan. He was hospitalized Jan. 25 and transferred to Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital for treatment on Jan. 30, Xinua said.
Peng and his pregnant wife, who had registered their marriage two years ago, had planned to hold their formal ceremony Feb. 1, according to China Daily.
But in January, Peng decided to postpone the ceremony because of the virus outbreak. At one point, he was treating 150 patients a day, the newspaper said.
"He was too young, only 29 years old," said his wife, Ling Yung, a nurse. "We had always believed that he would recover ... I am sorry to see what happened to him and hope his unborn baby will grow up healthy and happy."
Cases in South Korea spike
South Korea said on Saturday that viral infections had jumped eight-fold in four days to 433, most of them linked to a church and a hospital in and around Daegu, the nation’s fourth-largest city, where health workers scrambled to screen thousands of worshippers.
The country also reported its third death linked to the virus, a man in his 40s who was found dead at home and posthumously tested positive.
Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip told reporters that virus patients with signs of pneumonia or other serious conditions at a hospital in the southern city of Cheongdo were transferred to other facilities, 17 of them in critical condition.
He said that the outbreak had entered a serious new phase, but still expressed cautious optimism that it can be contained to the region surrounding Daegu, near Cheongdo, where the first case was reported on Tuesday.
Seoul city government on Friday said it will ban rallies at three major public squares in the city center and close down churches operated by the Shincheonji religious movement in a bid to thwart any spread of the coronavirus in South Korea.
Contributing: Associated Press
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus: Italy towns lock down after Covid spreads, 2 deaths