COVID-19: Two dead, 79 infected in Italy as government shuts down worst hit areas

Cases of the new coronavirus in Italy, the most affected country in Europe, rose on Saturday to nearly 80, killing two people and prompting the government to close off the worst hit areas in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto.

Authorities in the two regions, where the outbreak is concentrated, have canceled sports events, including three top league soccer games, and closed schools and universities. Companies from Ray-Ban owner Luxottica to the country’s top bank UniCredit have told workers living in the affected areas to stay home.

Lombardy and Veneto represent Italy’s industrial heart and jointly account for 30 per cent of gross domestic output.

With an emergency decree passed at a meeting in the headquarters of Italy’s civil protection agency, the government adopted special powers to be able to stop people leaving or entering the worst impacted zones.

Competent ministers will also be able to halt sports events and school trips outside those areas.

“I’ve wondered myself why so many cases in Italy … and the answer is in the rigorous and meticulous controls our country has adopted from the start,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said at a late night press conference.

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