Sixth coronavirus death in Italy as 50,000 people are placed under lockdown

24 February 2020, 10:20 | Updated: 24 February 2020, 14:33

Italy has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Europe
Italy has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Europe. Picture: PA

Tens of thousands of people are in an enforced lockdown in Italian towns after the country reported its sixth death from coronavirus.

Strict measures have been imposed to halt the spread of the disease. The regions of Lombardy and Veneto have locked down their towns, although people are free to leave their homes, public events have been banned and schools have been shut to stop the spread of the virus.

Authorities in the Veneto region have cut short the Venice carnival as they try to control what is now the worst coronavirus outbreak in Europe.

Six people have died so far in Italy, and the country has 152 people infected - the highest number outside Asia.

All events at the Venice carnival have been called off, and cinemas and theatres were also closed, including Milan's legendary La Scala.

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People wearing sanitary masks sit as they wait at the Centrale main railway station in Milan
People wearing sanitary masks sit as they wait at the Centrale main railway station in Milan. Picture: PA

Schools and universities in the region have been order to close for a week.

Venice, which is full of tourists for carnival events, reported its first two cases.

Five people have died in the past 48 hours bringing the total death toll to five.

In Italy's northern Lombardy region, which includes the nation's financial capital, Milan, the governor announced on Sunday that the number of confirmed cases stood at 110.

About a dozen towns are are in lockdown as authorities race to contain the spread.

About 50,000 people cannot enter or leave these towns in Veneto and Lombardy for the next two weeks without special permission.

On Sunday, three Italian top flight football matches were postponed over coronavirus fears.

This morning, it emerged a plane to Milan was delayed when flying out of Heathrow Airport when a passenger refused to fly to the coronavirus-ravaged country.

The passenger was taken off the flight after deciding they didn’t want to fly to the country.

Molly Hunter, an NBC journalist on the BA flight to Milan, tweeted: "At #Heathrow, our BA #Milan flight is delayed - the captain just announced there are passengers (I count 3) on board who don’t want to travel due to #coronavirus.

"Already pushed back... now re-attaching."

The news comes after Austrian officials refused to allow a train coming from Italy to enter the country.

Italian State Railways informed Austrian train operator OBB that there were two people with fever symptoms onboard and that they could not enter.

"Tonight a train on its way from Venice to Munich was stopped at the Austrian border," Austria's interior ministry confirmed.

Italy has been scrambling to check the spread of Europe's first major outbreak of coronavirus
Italy has been scrambling to check the spread of Europe's first major outbreak of coronavirus. Picture: PA

Officials in Austria said talks are ongoing over whether they will impose formal checks for the disease at their border.

French director of health Jerome Salomon has also expressed his concern about the "worrying" situation in Italy.

He warned that French proximity to Italy means that many more cases are likely in the country.

"Anyone returning from Lombardy or Veneto with symptoms must be considered suspicious," he told a French radio station.

In China, the number of deaths has now reached 2,592, while 77,345 people have tested positive for the virus as fears of a global pandemic grow.

There have also been cases in South Korea and Iran, among others. There is no vaccine.

31 per cent of people have said they would reconsider foreign travel
31 per cent of people have said they would reconsider foreign travel. Picture: PA

It comes as almost a third of UK consumers said they will stop travelling abroad of the coronavirus outbreak continues, according to new research.

Companies have warned that overseas city break destinations and popular resorts are likely to suffer the most from UK travellers staying away.

This could lead to a rise in people taking their holidays within the UK, the researchers suggested.

Consultancy firm Retail Economics, which commissioned the poll of more than 2,000 people, calculated that this could result in £17 billion of holiday spending being put on hold.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is advising against all but essential travel to mainland China.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have suspended their flights to the area, while travel firm Trailfinders admitted it has "seen an impact on bookings to the East".

Other actions which some respondents to the survey said they will take if the coronavirus persists include avoiding public transport (22%), avoiding major shopping areas (16%) and avoiding their workplace (7%).

Nearly a quarter (23%) of consumers believe the virus presents a high threat to health in the UK, while 35% think it is a moderate threat and 42% see it as a low threat.

Retail Economics chief executive Richard Lim said: "If the virus persists, consumers are likely to cut back in three main areas: holidays and travel, eating out and using public transport.

"Consumers will shift this spending elsewhere as they substitute what they would have spent abroad to other areas of the economy.

"Coronavirus adds to an already fragile backdrop for consumer confidence.

"People are worried about Brexit, a weaker outlook for the economy, lack of savings and how to shop sustainably."