Coronavirus spreads to the SOUTH of Italy

Coronavirus spreads to the SOUTH of Italy, with panic-buyers stripping supermarket shelves bare in Palermo after infected tourist from the north visits Sicily

  • Woman from Bergamo, in Italy’s north, went on holiday to Sicily before her home region was put on lockdown 
  • She then developed flu symptoms and went to a Palermo hospital where she tested positive for coronavirus
  • Race is now on to find people she came into contact with as shoppers began panic-buying food and medicine 
  • Italy has 220 confirmed cases of coronavirus and seven people have died, the largest total outside of Asia
  • Deputy economic minister warned it may miss EU budget commitments as economy slides towards recession 

Italy has confirmed its first case of coronavirus in the south after a holidaymaker from the north fell sick while visiting Sicily with friends.

The woman, from Bergamo, had been in Palermo since before her home region of Lombardy was put on lockdown following an outbreak of cases at the weekend.

But in recent days she began showing flu-like symptoms and went to hospital where she was diagnosed with the virus. 

News that the infection had spread sparked panic-buying in the Sicilian capital on Tuesday as shoppers stripped supermarket shelves bare.

Meanwhile Italy’s deputy economic minister Laura Castelli warned that the country may need help meeting its EU budget commitments as its economy teeters on the brink of recession.

Shoppers stripped shelves bare of food and other essentials in Palermo on Tuesday after the city’s first case of coronavirus was confirmed after a sick woman visited from the north

The woman travelled from Bergamo, in the now-quarantined Lombardy region, before the lockdown was put in place before falling ill in Palermo (pictured, empty supermarket shelves)

Italy registered ten new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, but news that the disease has spread to the country’s south will come as a hammer-blow to health officials trying to contain it (pictured, panic-buying in Palermo)

Shoppers in the Sicilian capital raided shelves for supplies amid fears the region may be locked down to stop the spread of coronavirus, after the city’s first confirmed case

A pharmacist puts out a sign informing customers that they have sold out of protective masks and sanitising gel in Palermo

Even before it was hit by a coronavirus outbreak, the Italian economy registered a contraction of 0.3 per cent in the last quarter of 2019.

On Monday the stock market plunged more than 5 per cent as the FTSE MIB recorded its largest single-day plunge since 2016.

Shares in banks, most of which are located in the financial capital of Milan which is at the heart of the outbreak, were among the hardest hit.

Juventus football club, which has seen games postponed along with the rest of Serie A amid the outbreak, had to suspend trading in its shares after they fell 11 per cent.

If the economy posts another loss in the first quarter of 2020, it would mean the country is in recession. 

While Italy recorded just ten new cases of coronavirus overnight Monday, the fact that the disease has spread to the south will be a major concern to health officials.

Until now the outbreak had been confined to the north, where some 55,000 people have been placed on lockdown with villages cut off and residents isolated in an attempt to stop the spread.

The woman, who was not identified, was taken to hospital in Palermo recently after she began showing symptoms and later tested positive for the virus. 

The case was announced Tuesday, though it is not clear for how long she was in the city for before that. 

Her husband and friends have also been quarantined. She is not thought to be in serious condition.

A 60-year-old man in Florence, central Italy, has also tested positive – though he is thought to have been infected in Singapore, a known hotbed for the virus.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has blamed the management of a hospital in northern Italy for one outbreak of the new coronavirus.

A cluster of 11 towns in Lombardy have been placed in a ‘red zone’, with roads closed and strict checks on all traffic in place

Everyone trying to enter the quarantine zone must have paperwork allowing them to be there. All other travellers are told to find another way around

Police turn back a truck driver attempting to find his way around the quarantined red-zone covering parts of Lombardy, in northern Italy

Lombardy has been split into two regions – red and yellow – with those in the red zone confined to their houses with nobody allowed in or out, while those in the yellow zone have had their movements restricted

A man walks across the street in one of the zones of Lombardy which has been hit with restrictions as health authorities try to contain the spread of coronavirus

‘At this point, we know that the way one hospital facility was managed was not entirely appropriate,’ Conte told Italian TV on Monday evening.

‘That certainly contributed to the spread,’ he said, without naming the institution concerned.

The main centre of infection has been the town of Codogno, around 60 kilometres (35 miles) to the south of Milan.

Codogno and several other towns in northern Italy have been put under isolation measures in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus.

An officer at a roadblock stopping cars from entering Somaglia,one of the towns in lockdown, told Mail Online: ’We have had no trouble. 

‘Everyone is cooperating and no one has attempted to drive out.

‘We will arrest anyone who does try to leave, but I do not think people will be so foolish, They know this is very serious and will just have to wait.’

Hundreds of police have set up roadblocks around the towns with only medical staff, police and drivers delivering food and water supplies allowed to enter.

Driving around the deserted roads close to the town of Codogno – the epicentre of the outbreak – there is an eerie silence that is unnerving.

Roads that would be busy with cars are empty while side streets leading to rows of houses are deserted.

The coronavirus outbreak has left the Italian economy teetering on the brink of recession as $1trillon was wiped off the stock market on Monday (pictured, PM Giuseppe Conte)

Shutters on most homes remain closed and in the space of an hour Mail Online only saw one person out walking.

Police wearing masks and blue surgical gloves are on the round the clock duty at the roadblocks.

What few cars have ventured out are flagged down and ordered to pull over to the side of the road.

A police officer approaches slowly but makes sure he keeps his distance from the rolled down window of the car.

Only those with paperwork allowing them entry into the quarantined zone are allowed through. All others are turned back.

At one checkpoint the driver of a German HGV lorry look exasperated as he held up his sat nav and sought help in trying to find a way around road blocks to drop off his delivery.

Despite pleading with the officers he was turned around and headed back towards the main A1 motorway that runs between Milan and Bologna.

Italian authorities have divided the region of Lombardy into two zones – red and yellow.

The towns where 50,000 people have been banned from leaving are in the red zone while others such as Lodi are considered ‘safe’ and fall in the yellow zone.

As a precaution all bars and clubs in the entire yellow region have been ordered to close at 6pm. No large gatherings are allowed for the next fortnight.

A man in a face mask feeds pigeons in Milan, as the country is hit by the coronavirus outbreak

A couple wearing face masks is seen in the subway in Duomo underground station in Milan

Women in a face masks are seen in Porta Venezia subway in Milan, as the country is hit by the coronavirus outbreak

In the town of Guardamiglio, about five kilometres from Codogno, a bar in the town had the paperwork ordering its closure after 6pm taped to the metal shutters.

Local resident Giancarlo Pulgia said: ‘It is something we have to accept. We are lucky not to be in the towns that have been put under quarantine. We are still able to go about our business, not that anyone is working. ‘

Schools have been closed and sports facilities shuttered for the duration while a Government decree allows people in the red zone to work from home and continue to be paid.

The town of Codogno became the epicentre after a 38-year-old man fell ill with the virus and was rushed to hospital. He is thought to have started the spread of the virus that has led to Italy having the third most cases after China and Singapore.

Inside the affected towns most resident are staying indoors and communicating via a WhatsApp group and email.

One resident, a middle aged woman, told local media: ‘We are all waiting for news. There is confusion about food supplies. 

‘Some people are going out to other supermarkets in towns that are within the red zone. That is allowed.

‘There are some terrible stories going round. We have heard that nurses have been prevented from ending their shifts. They are risking burn out’.

Describing the town, she said:’ The place is empty and everyone is locked in their homes. There’s an unusual silence and we talk from behind closed front doors to exchange information.

Italy’s Stock Exchange, the Borsa Italiana, saw 5 per cent of its value wiped out Monday – the largest single-day fall since 2016

‘We see ambulances coming and going to visit the sick and to check if it is another case of coronavirus.

‘The A&E department at the hospital has been closed down. No one is allowed in and no one allowed out.’

Journalist Costanza Cavalli, who entered the town before it was placed in lockdown described the boredom she has endured while prevented from leaving.

She said she yearned for the noise of traffic and said after four days feels as if she is serving a 30-year jail sentence.

Four days into the lockdown police have not had to make any arrests for residents attempting to leave.

Despite the spread of the virus to the southern most tip of the Italy and new advice on self isolation flights to and from the UK have continued unchanged.

British Airways was operating 18 flights a day to and from Milan while other airlines such as Easyjet and Ryanair kept to their normal schedule.

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