Coronavirus: Italy to close all schools as deaths rise

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(BBC) – Italy has confirmed that it will shut all schools from Thursday for 10 days as it battles to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

And all professional sport, including Serie A football matches, will be played behind closed doors for a month.

A total of 107 people have now been killed by the coronavirus in Italy, which has the most serious outbreak in Europe.

PM Giuseppe Conte said the health service risked being overwhelmed.

Most of the more than 3,000 cases are in the north but others have been confirmed in 19 of Italy’s 20 regions.

Globally about 3,200 people have died and more than 90,000 have been infected, the vast majority in China, where the virus emerged late last year.

The World Health Organization has so far stopped short of declaring a pandemic – an epidemic spreading across the world through local transmission – but on Wednesday Germany’s health minister said the coronavirus now met the definition.

“The situation is changing very quickly… What’s clear is that we have not yet reached the peak of the outbreak,” Jens Spahn said.

Confirmed cases have been reported in 81 countries, with Italy, Iran and South Korea emerging as hotspots outside China.

What is Italy doing?

Mr Conte called on all Italians to “do their part”.

“We are in the same boat, whoever has the helm has the duty to indicate the route, we must make an extra effort, we must do it together,” he said.

Education Minister Lucia Azzolina said she hoped students would be able to resume classes as soon as possible.

“My commitment is to ensure that the essential public service, albeit from a distance, is provided to all our students,” she said.

Local media said health experts and Italy’s health ministry had been in favour of closing schools.

Italy’s death toll from the virus had jumped by 28 to 107, the Civil Protection Agency said on Wednesday. Most of the deaths have been in the Lombardy region around Milan, and in northern areas near Bologna and Venice.

Earlier measures including the quarantine of 11 towns near Milan with a combined population of 50,000 have failed to stop the spread of infections.

Italy is now also considering closing cinemas and theatres and banning public events, Reuters news agency reported, quoting a draft government decree.

The decree also tells Italians to avoid hugging and shaking hands as much as possible.

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