Italy has confirmed its first case of coronavirus in the south after a holidaymaker from the north fell sick while visiting Sicily with her husband and friends.
The 66-year-old woman, from Bergamo, travelled to the Sicilian capital of Palermo on Friday morning before her home region of Lombardy was put on lockdown following a surge in cases.
But she began showing flu-like symptoms around 2.30pm Monday and was quarantined to her room at the Mercure hotel in the city centre, before being taken to hospital after a test came back positive.
Mayor Leoluca Orlando said the hotel remains open but the woman’s room has been secured. Another 29 people who arrived with her from Bergamo have been quarantined in their rooms, while 20 staff are also on lockdown.
Authorities are in the process of tracking down airline passengers and other people she came into contact with during her visit, he told Palermo Today. Her husband is also suspected of having the disease.
News that the infection had spread south sparked panic-buying in Palermo on Tuesday as shoppers stripped supermarket shelves bare and raided pharmacies for medical supplies.
Italy confirmed a total of 59 new cases of coronavirus across the country on Tuesday, bringing the total to 288 with seven deaths and one person recovered. The total is the largest outside of Asia.
Austria and Croatia also confirmed their first cases of the disease, which had been brought over from Italy.
Shoppers stripped shelves bare of food and other essentials in Palermo on Tuesday after the city’s first case of coronavirus was confirmed after a sick woman visited from the north
The woman travelled from Bergamo, in the now-quarantined Lombardy region, before the lockdown was put in place before falling ill in Palermo (pictured, empty supermarket shelves)
Italy registered ten new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, but news that the disease has spread to the country’s south will come as a hammer-blow to health officials trying to contain it (pictured, panic-buying in Palermo)
Shoppers in the Sicilian capital raided shelves for supplies amid fears the region may be locked down to stop the spread of coronavirus, after the city’s first confirmed case
A pharmacist puts out a sign informing customers that they have sold out of protective masks and sanitising gel in Palermo
The woman had been staying at the Mercure hotel, in Palermo city centre, along with her husband and friends. The building has now been quarantined as guests are tested for the virus
Visitors and health workers wear protective face masks outside the Cervello hospital in Palermo where the 66-year-old infected woman has been quarantined
Two health workers wearing protective clothing speak to each other outside the hospital, where the woman in quarantined
Austria’s health authorities said two Italian citizens who were likely infected in Lombardy had tested positive in the province of Tyrol, while Croatia said a young man contracted the virus after visiting Milan.
In total 20 Italian provinces have now reported cases, with most being concentrated in the Lombardy and Veneto regions in the north.
But the regions of Liguria, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Trentino Alto Adige, Sicily and Lazio – where Rome is located – have also confirmed a limited number of cases.
Of the 288 cases, health authorities have confirmed that 109 people are in hospital and showing symptoms, 29 are in intensive care, and 137 have been told to isolate themselves at home.
Italian authorities are still trying to figure out how they went from a few isolated cases of the virus to one of the worst-affected countries in the world in just a few days.
Health officials have yet to identify patient-zero for the current outbreak, and without knowing where the infection started it is difficult to know how and why it spread so fast.
As supplies ran low in affected regions, two prosecutors opened an investigation into price-gouging amid reports that face masks were selling online for 10 euros each, while bottles of hand sanitizer had rocketed overnight from 7 euros to 39 euros.
Meanwhile Italy’s deputy economic minister Laura Castelli warned that the country may need help meeting its EU budget commitments as its economy teeters on the brink of recession.
Even before it was hit by a coronavirus outbreak, the Italian economy registered a contraction of 0.3 per cent in the last quarter of 2019.
On Monday the stock market plunged more than 5 per cent as the FTSE MIB recorded its largest single-day fall since 2016. The sell-off continued Tuesday morning, wiping out another 1 per cent of market value.
The market recouped most of those losses in the afternoon, but was still trending down by a fraction of a percent.
The majority of Italy’s cases have been in Lombardy and Veneto, in the north, with the region now partially on lockdown. A 60-year-old businessman fell ill in Florence after returning from Singapore, while a female tourist fell sick in Palermo
The UK, Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, Sweden and Finland all reported cases of coroanvirus carried over from China, while the disease has been spreading between people in Italy. Austria and Croatia also confirmed cases on Tuesday in people who had recently travelled to Lombardy and Milan
A cluster of 11 towns in Lombardy have been placed in a ‘red zone’, with roads closed and strict checks on all traffic in place
Everyone trying to enter the quarantine zone must have paperwork allowing them to be there. All other travellers are told to find another way around
Police turn back a truck driver attempting to find his way around the quarantined red-zone covering parts of Lombardy, in northern Italy
Lombardy has been split into two regions – red and yellow – with those in the red zone confined to their houses with nobody allowed in or out, while those in the yellow zone have had their movements restricted
A man walks across the street in one of the zones of Lombardy which has been hit with restrictions as health authorities try to contain the spread of coronavirus
More than 80,000 people have been infected with coronavirus worldwide after cases began spreading from China’s Wuhan region in December last year, and more than 2,500 people have now died from the disease
Shares in banks, most of which are located in the financial capital of Milan which is at the heart of the outbreak, were among the hardest hit.
Juventus football club, which has seen games postponed along with the rest of Serie A amid the outbreak, had to suspend trading in its shares after they fell 11 per cent.
If the economy posts another loss in the first quarter of 2020, it would mean the country is in recession.
While Italy recorded just ten new cases of coronavirus overnight Monday, the fact that the disease has spread to the south will be a major concern to health officials.
Until now the outbreak had been confined to the north, where some 55,000 people have been placed on lockdown in 11 towns and villages that have been cut off in an attempt to stop the spread.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte blamed the management of a hospital in northern Italy for one outbreak, saying that protocols to stop the spread were ‘not entirely appropriate’.
Iran’s deputy HEALTH minister tests positive for coronavirus after looking unwell at a press conference
Iran’s deputy health minister has tested positive for coronavirus as the crisis deepened in the Islamic republic today.
Iraj Harirchi was taken into quarantine just a day after sweating heavily at a press conference where he insisted that the outbreak was not as bad as feared.
The virus’s spread into the health ministry is the latest sign of Tehran’s faltering efforts to contain the outbreak as the official death toll rose to 15 today.
A map showing how the coronavirus outbreak has spread from Iran across the Middle East to countries including Kuwait and Iraq. All the cases shown above have been traced back to Iran
The regime has refused to seal off the holy city of Qom at the centre of the crisis even as pilgrims spread the virus around the Middle East and Iranians face shortages of masks and testing kits.
Even according to official figures, Iran has the worst virus outbreak in the Middle East with at least 95 people now infected – an increase of 34 since yesterday – and three new deaths bringing the toll to 15.
However, there is strong suspicion that the true figures are much higher, with one lawmaker declaring yesterday that 50 people had died in the city of Qom.
Qom, where the virus is believed to have arrived in Iran from China, is a major destination for Shi’ite pilgrims from around the Middle East.
But despite the growing crisis, the governor of Qom declared last night that locking down the city was ‘not an appropriate solution’, Iranian media said.
A series of Middle East governments have imposed travel bans after the virus spread across the region and Turkey today ordered a jet to be diverted on its way from Tehran to Ankara.
Three women and a police officer wear masks in Tehran on Sunday to guard against the coronavirus in Iran, which now has the worst outbreak in the Middle East
Women in Tehran wear masks to guard against the coronavirus, which is believed to have entered Iran from China where the outbreak began
A cafe worker arranges sugar packets inside a shopping mall in Milan, which has been left almost-deserted after the city found itself at the centre of the latest coronavirus outbreak
A shop worker arranges clothes inside the ‘Il Vulcano’ shopping centre in Milan despite a lack of customers on Tuesday
Two people mill around the almost-deserted Il Vulcano shopping centre in Milan amid the coronavirus outbreak
A fish vendor wears a protective face mask at his stall in a local market in the Corvetto district of Milan, Italy
A woman wearing a face mask walks among stalls at street market on Viale Papiniano in Milan, which is typically bustling with midday crowds but is now significantly quieter
‘That certainly contributed to the spread,’ he said, without naming the institution concerned.
What is clear is that the main centre of infection has been the town of Codogno, around 60 kilometres (35 miles) to the south of Milan.
Codogno and several other towns in northern Italy have been put under isolation measures in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus.
An officer at a roadblock stopping cars from entering Somaglia,one of the towns in lockdown, told Mail Online: ’We have had no trouble.
‘Everyone is cooperating and no one has attempted to drive out.
‘We will arrest anyone who does try to leave, but I do not think people will be so foolish, They know this is very serious and will just have to wait.’
Hundreds of police have set up roadblocks around the towns with only medical staff, police and drivers delivering food and water supplies allowed to enter.
Driving around the deserted roads close to the town of Codogno – the epicentre of the outbreak – there is an eerie silence that is unnerving.
A member of the cleaning service staff prepares to sanitize a train wagon at the Garibaldi station in Milan, which is at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy
Sanitation of all public transport is among emergency measures being taken by authorities in Milan as Italy tries to halt the spread of coronavirus
Garibaldi station in Milan is deserted after the region was placed on partial lockdown amid the rapid spread of coronavirus
Garibaldi, typically bustling with commuters, was almost deserted on Tuesday as people stayed home amid coronavirus fears
A pre-triage medical tent is set up in front of the Santa Maria Nuova hospital in Florence, Italy, after a 60-year-old businessman in the city was tested for coronavirus after returning from Singapore
While most of Italy’s coronavirus cases have been confined to the north, the disease has begun spreading south – amid fears that it could rapidly run out of control
A worker wearing a face mask stands next to a pre-triage medical tent set up in front of the Santa Maria Nuova hospital in Florence, Italy
Britons at Milan’s airport arrive for flight with masks
Travellers flying to London from Milan’s Linate Airport were taking no chances of catching the Coronavirus and arrived wearing face masks and protective gloves.
With nearly all flights from the Italian city operating as normal a steady stream of passengers began the check in process – but made sure they were fully protected.
At the British Airways check in desk two staff on duty did not have any protective masks.
But almost all passengers arriving for the 90 minutes flight made sure they had protective measures in place.
Travellers at a BA check-in desk at Milan’s Linate Airport arrived wearing face masks as they prepared to board a flight to London on Tuesday, amid fears about the spread of coronavirus
A woman wearing a protective mask waits to board her flight to the UK from Milan’s international airport on Tuesday
Micaele Micheri was returning to her West London home after a three day visit to her parents who live south of Milan.
She wore a protective mask and latex gloves and said she was being ‘over cautious’.
‘I know that I do not have the virus and have not come into contact with anyone who might have it,’ she told Mail Online.
‘This is just being overcautious and I am not worried. I came to visit my parents but we have spent the entire three days inside as we did not want to go out.’
Also in the check in queue was 12 year old Alex who was returning to his home in Weybridge, Surrey.
He wore a surgical mask and said he was being double cautious.’
‘I’m not too concerned but its better to be cautious,’ he said.
He was accompanied by a family friend, also called Alex, who said he wasn’t worried and chose not to take precautionary measures. ‘It has been blown out of proportion, ‘ he said.
At the airport the entrance to the pharmacy in the arrivals hall displayed a sign which said they had no anti bacterial handwash or face masks for sale.
A staff member said they had sold out two days ago and were not expected fresh supplies until later this week.
Inside Linate’s main terminal many other travellers wore masks as they sat in restaurants or waited to check in for their flight.
While all British Airways and EasyJet flights were operating as normal Alitalia, the national airline, cancelled numerous internal flights from Milan.
At the airport the entrance to the pharmacy in the arrivals hall displayed a sign which said they had no anti bacterial handwash or face masks for sale
Roads that would be busy with cars are empty while side streets leading to rows of houses are deserted.
Shutters on most homes remain closed and in the space of an hour Mail Online only saw one person out walking.
Police wearing masks and blue surgical gloves are on the round the clock duty at the roadblocks.
What few cars have ventured out are flagged down and ordered to pull over to the side of the road.
A police officer approaches slowly but makes sure he keeps his distance from the rolled down window of the car.
Only those with paperwork allowing them entry into the quarantined zone are allowed through. All others are turned back.
At one checkpoint the driver of a German HGV lorry look exasperated as he held up his sat nav and sought help in trying to find a way around road blocks to drop off his delivery.
Despite pleading with the officers he was turned around and headed back towards the main A1 motorway that runs between Milan and Bologna.
Italian authorities have divided the region of Lombardy into two zones – red and yellow.
The towns where 50,000 people have been banned from leaving are in the red zone while others such as Lodi are considered ‘safe’ and fall in the yellow zone.
As a precaution all bars and clubs in the entire yellow region have been ordered to close at 6pm. No large gatherings are allowed for the next fortnight.
A tourist from Taiwan wears stickers on her back announcing that she is not from China while visiting Milan’s cathedral
A man in a face mask feeds pigeons in Milan, as the country is hit by the coronavirus outbreak
A couple wearing face masks is seen in the subway in Duomo underground station in Milan
Women in a face masks are seen in Porta Venezia subway in Milan, as the country is hit by the coronavirus outbreak
A pharmacy in the Chinese district of Milan displays a sign announcing that face masks have sold out
A man wearing a respiratory mask checks his smartphone next to a closed store in the Chinese district of Milan
A sign that says ‘as a consequence of the current health situation, our establishment has decided to suspend its activity from February 25 until March 1’ in the Chinese district of Milan
In the town of Guardamiglio, about five kilometres from Codogno, a bar in the town had the paperwork ordering its closure after 6pm taped to the metal shutters.
Local resident Giancarlo Pulgia said: ‘It is something we have to accept. We are lucky not to be in the towns that have been put under quarantine. We are still able to go about our business, not that anyone is working. ‘
Schools have been closed and sports facilities shuttered for the duration while a Government decree allows people in the red zone to work from home and continue to be paid.
The town of Codogno became the epicentre after a 38-year-old man fell ill with the virus and was rushed to hospital. He is thought to have started the spread of the virus that has led to Italy having the third most cases after China and Singapore.
Inside the affected towns most resident are staying indoors and communicating via a WhatsApp group and email.
One resident, a middle aged woman, told local media: ‘We are all waiting for news. There is confusion about food supplies.
‘Some people are going out to other supermarkets in towns that are within the red zone. That is allowed.
‘There are some terrible stories going round. We have heard that nurses have been prevented from ending their shifts. They are risking burn out’.
Medical staff with protective suit walks at Dr. Fran Mihaljevic hospital for Infectious Diseases in Zagreb, where a young Croatian man infected with the virus after travelling to Italy is being quarantined
Medical staff with protective suit gestures at Dr. Fran Mihaljevic hospital for Infectious Diseases in Zagreb
A biohazard sign hangs on the railings outside a ward where Croatia’s first coronavirus patient is being quarantined
Senior staff at Innsbruck Hospital in Austria talk to the press after the country confirmed its first two coronavirus cases
Describing the town, she said:’ The place is empty and everyone is locked in their homes. There’s an unusual silence and we talk from behind closed front doors to exchange information.
‘We see ambulances coming and going to visit the sick and to check if it is another case of coronavirus.
‘The A&E department at the hospital has been closed down. No one is allowed in and no one allowed out.’
Journalist Costanza Cavalli, who entered the town before it was placed in lockdown described the boredom she has endured while prevented from leaving.
She said she yearned for the noise of traffic and said after four days feels as if she is serving a 30-year jail sentence.
Luigi Toselli, a farmer from Codogno, is among hundreds of people who are escaping the quarantine to go shopping in towns outside the red zone.
He said: We must survive. The government on TV keeps saying that everything is fine. But here the situation is dramatic. The truth is we have been abandoned.
‘It’s not right to sentence 50,000 to isolation. We need to be helped. No one is doing this. So we are helping ourselves.’
Italy’s Stock Exchange, the Borsa Italiana, saw 5 per cent of its value wiped out Monday – the largest single-day fall since 2016
Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte (centre) attends the first meeting of the standing committee between Ministers and Governors of the Italian Regions to face the coronavirus emergency
Mayor of Palermo Leoluca Orlando speaks to the media abouth the ongoing coronavirus emergency in the Sicilian capital
A view of the almost-empty street market on Viale Papiniano in Milan, Italy, as police officers speak with market traders
People wearing respiratory masks walk on a street of the Chinese district of Milan
Pietro Meazzi, a construction worker from Casalpusterlengo, said: ‘In the red zone only pharmacies and small food shops are open. It takes hours to get into the shops and then you find that fresh food, masks and medicines are all out of stock.
‘It’s unacceptable and the older people cannot take it any more. We go grocery shopping in San Rocco [which is outside the red zone]. Alos for friends and relatives. It’s our duty to help others.’
Andrea Maiocchi, a shopkeeper from Castiglione, added:‘No one wants to infect anybody. But rules cannot ignore reality. Out of ten locked-down towns only four have people who are actually infected.
‘Even so within the red zone everyone goes wherever they want. It’s absurd. It’s like saying within the red zone you have a license to infect anyone.
‘While those in towns without any cases of coronavirus no one can go to work or get the essentials that have disappeared from local shops – soap, hand-sanitizer, washing powder, mineral water, pet food and cigarettes.’
A doctor in Codogno said: ‘There are not enough mouth swabs for everyone. Even I am waiting to be tested since Wednesday.
‘We are lacking nurses. With medical staff under quarantine basic medicine is collapsing. We are at the point where even those who have fever are not being tested because we don’t have enough mouth swabs.
‘Everyone knows that this is not the correct way to do things and that we are too late to fight this.’
Another doctor in Codogno added: ‘There are six of us that got sick. No one warned us of the danger. No one gave us the adequate protection. Everyone if washing their white jacket at home but that’s it.
‘The authorities are blocking flights from China but one staff member got in and out of the hospital twice in four days. After we tested positive it was hours before we were given instruction to lock down the area.
‘We feel like we were sent in and now have been abandoned..
Four days into the lockdown police have not had to make any arrests for residents attempting to leave.
Despite the spread of the virus to the southern most tip of the Italy and new advice on self isolation flights to and from the UK have continued unchanged.
British Airways was operating 18 flights a day to and from Milan while other airlines such as Easyjet and Ryanair kept to their normal schedule.