Italy considers closing all schools and colleges across the country amid coronavirus outbreak

4 March 2020, 23:55

Italy has the most coronavirus cases in Europe
Italy has the most coronavirus cases in Europe. Picture: PA

Italy has announced that all schools and colleges could be closed for two weeks over coronavirus fears.

It comes as the country's death toll rose to 79 on Wednesday.

They are set to be closed until mid-March.

The decision was taken at a meeting held by prime minister Guiseppe Conte and his cabinet on Tuesday, according to Italian news agency ANSA.

The Italian Education Minister, Lucia Azzolina, has said that the decision to close schools and universities across the country until mid-March - reported by the Italian news agency Ansa and several local outlets - has not yet been taken but will be decided “in the next few hours”.

Italy has ordered all sporting events to take place without fans until 3 April, including their Six Nations match against England, due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Coppa Italia semi-final second leg between Napoli and Inter Milan, which was scheduled for Thursday evening, has become the latest fixture in Italy has also been postponed.

The Coppa Italia semi-final second leg between Napoli and Inter Milan, which was scheduled for Thursday evening, has become the latest fixture in Italy to be postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

A Serie A statement said: "The president of the Serie A League, having taken note of the order of the Prefect of Naples of 4 March 2020 which orders the postponement to a later date of the semi-final return match of the Coppa Italia Napoli-Inter scheduled on March 5 at 20.45, announces that the aforementioned is postponed until a later date."

The other semi-final return leg between Juventus and AC Milan, which was due to be played on Wednesday, was postponed on Tuesday evening.

The Italian army has been drafted in to tackle the spread
The Italian army has been drafted in to tackle the spread. Picture: PA

The Italian government has also advised against kissing, hugging and shaking hands.

Tom Kington, Italy Correspondent for the Times, told LBC: "This has come off the back of startling numbers coming out of Italy yesterday, 466 new cases.

"I think that got the government thinking. Already schools and universities are closed in three Northern regions in Italy where the outbreak is focused.

"The cabinet are still in session right now, schools are closed until mid-March. The government are running scared at the moment, they thought they could contain this with measures in northern Italy, with 11 towns quarantined. But they are clearly thinking we need to go further.

"Obviously closing schools is a huge hassle for working families but I think there is grim resignation about it, especially as it has spread right down to Sicily now. People are scared and ready to do what is necessary."

"In the last couple of days there has been a real shift in attitude in Italy.

There are 79 deaths in Italy so far
There are 79 deaths in Italy so far. Picture: PA

In the UK, England's chief medical officer says the UK will probably see a 'significant' rise in coronavirus cases within around six weeks, and that we should expect deaths.

Professor Chris Whitty has insisted the public should not be alarmed, but instead focus on protecting ourselves.

A Government campaign's been launched highlighting how we can do just that, by washing our hands properly.

He said up to 20 per cent of the population could be sick at any one time.

On Tuesday the Government's "battle plan" for tackling the virus was released which said in a worst-case scenario, up to 80% of the population could become infected, with people in hospital with pneumonia and a relatively high death rate among the elderly and frail.

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari, the Chief Medical Officer said the low number of cases in the UK is because "we have been lucky," but he did attribute the success in halting the spread to good work by NHS staff.

He said public health authorities are very good at "slowing down the spread".

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