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COVID-19: Italy shuts 10 cities, global stocks tumble

Rome, Feb 24 (IANS) Global stocks, led by Italy, tumbled on Monday after the country declared a lockdown in at least 10 cities applying to nearly 50,000 people — the first-ever in Europe — in an effort to contain the biggest outbreak of the virus outside Asia, with 152 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3 deaths.

The Financial Times reported that Italy imposed quarantine across at least 10 “towns in an effort to contain the biggest outbreak of the virus outside Asia”.

“Italian stocks led the global declines, with the country’s FTSE Mib index of shares dropping 4.5 per cent, the largest decline since 2016”.

The Venice Carnival was ordered shut on Sunday, two days ahead of schedule, and a lockdown imposed in party northern Italy, as authorities scramble to control the country’s coronavirus outbreak, which is so far Europe’s worst, reports said.

Strict quarantine restrictions are in place in two northern “hotspot” regions close to Milan and Venice, with entry and exit into several towns in Veneto and Lombardy barred for around 50,000 people for the next two weeks without special permission.

Even outside the zone, many businesses and schools have suspended activities, and sporting events have been cancelled including several top football matches.

Elsewhere, authorities in South Korea and Iran are battling to control rising numbers of infections. South Korea has raised its coronavirus alert to the “highest level”.

The new strain of coronavirus, which originated last year in China’s Hubei province, has caused over 76,000 infections and 2,442 deaths in the country. The virus has since spread to at least 11 other countries.

Meanwhile, 12 people have died in Iran due to the novel coronavirus, while a total of 47 persons were infected by the deadly disease, Minister of Health and Medical Education Saeed Namaki announced on Monday.

The Minister said that “Iran has enough sanitary resources to battle the novel coronavirus disease”, urging people to avoid public gatherings and sports events.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, Kuwait and Bahrain on Monday confirmed their first coronavirus cases.

South Korea reported its seventh coronavirus death and 161 new confirmed cases on Monday bringing the total number to 763, with health authorities vowing to contain the spread of the virus in the southwestern city of Daegu where more than half of the total cases were reported.

Daegu, where 2.5 million people are asked to stay indoors, saw its confirmed cases jump by 131 to 457 on Monday morning, despite efforts to stem the spread of the virus, Yonhap News Agency quoted the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) as saying.



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