• Number of deaths in China surpasses 2,400
• Ten towns in Italy on lockdown as two deaths reported
• South Korea leader calls for ‘unprecedented’ steps to stop spread
• 43 cases, eight deaths connected to coronavirus in Iran
• Feds’ plan to relocate coronavirus patients puts region at risk, California city says
• Japan minister apologizes after woman who left virus-stricken ship tests positive
Ten towns in Italy locked down as two deaths reported
Ten towns in northern Italy, with a population of around 50,000, were locked down Sunday two people died from COVID-19.
Government officials said Sunday that 111 people have tested positive for the respiratory illness, making it Europe’s worst-hit country.
Of those cases, 89 are in the region of Lombardy, 17 in Veneto, two in Emilia Romagna, one in Piemonte and two in the country’s capital, Rome.
A 77-year-old woman who lived in Milan’s Lombardy region died Saturday, the ANSA news agency reported. Her death came hours after a 78-year-old man died in the nearby city of Padua in the Veneto region.
The government introduced a number of containment measures Saturday in areas affected by the contagion, including a ban on exit and entry into the affected areas.
It also suspended all public events and gatherings and shut down schools, nurseries, museums, restaurants, businesses and public offices.
All those who have been in contact with those infected are to remain at home for a quarantine period of 14 days, officials added.
Both the police and where deemed necessary, the army, will ensure the measures are enforced, the government said. Those who break the rules risk up to three months in prison.
Meanwhile, three football games scheduled to be played today in Lombardy and Veneto, the most affected regions, have been suspended.
Giuseppe Sala, the mayor of Milan, said Sunday that all schools in the city will remain closed for at least a week.
The rise in cases comes as Milan is holding its annual fashion week.
Well known designer Giorgio Armani banned the public from attending the catwalk scheduled for Sunday and said it will be streamed online instead. — Claudio Lavanga
Number of deaths in China surpasses 2,400
Almost 650 new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in mainland China, the country’s National Health Commission reported Sunday as the total number of confirmed cases rose to 76,936.
A further 97 new deaths were also recorded, it said. A total of 2,442 people have died in mainland China since the outbreak began.
While the number of cases continues to rise, there have been less than 1,000 recorded each day over the last four days.
However, changes have been made to the way that the number of infections are counted, making it difficult to draw conclusions from the figures. — Yuliya Talmazan and Salina Lee
South Korea leader calls for ‘unprecedented’ steps to stop coronavirus
South Korea’s president put the country on its highest alert for infectious diseases on Sunday and said officials should take “unprecedented, powerful” steps to fight a viral outbreak.
Speaking at a government meeting, President Moon Jae-in said the outbreak had reached “a crucial watershed” and that “the next few days will be a very important critical moment.”
His comments came as authorities reported 169 new cases on Sunday, raising the total to 602 with five deaths.
The U.S. State Department issued a level 2 travel alert for South Korea Saturday warning that older adults and those with chronic medical conditions should consider postponing non-essential travel.
It said South Korea was experiencing “sustained community transmission of COVID-19.” — The Associated Press and Nayeong Kim
Eight deaths connected to coronavirus in Iran, officials say
Eight people have died after contracting the coronvirus, Iranian officials said Sunday, as the number of confirmed cases in the country rose to 43.
Only China has confirmed more deaths from the respiratory illness.
Most of the cases have been in Qom, a Shiite Muslim holy city 75 miles south of the capital Tehran.
Schools, universities and seminaries in Qom will be closed on Sunday and Monday in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq have placed travel and immigration curbs on Iran, while Oman on Sunday urged its citizens to steer clear of countries with high infection rates and said arrivals from those nations would be quarantined. — Reuters
Feds’ plan to relocate coronavirus patients puts region at risk, California city says
Leaders in Costa Mesa, California, said Saturday that they were kept in the dark until the last minute about plans by federal health agencies to transfer dozens of coronavirus patients to an empty building in their city in a move they said could put the entire region at risk.
The Southern California city was granted a restraining order Friday by a federal judge to temporarily halt the relocation of up to 50 patients from Travis Air Force Base in Northern California to the Fairview Developmental Center. In its request for the order, the city cited concern that the building is located in a densely populated area surrounded by schools, golf courses and homes.
“We are all united in addressing what we think is a public health crisis right here in our community,” Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley said.
In a news conference Saturday, local elected officials chided the federal government for its lack of transparency about how the site was chosen, how many patients would be transferred and what federal agency made the decision. — Alicia Victoria Lozano
Japan minister apologizes after woman who left virus-stricken ship tests positive
Japan’s health minister has apologized after a woman who was allowed to leave a coronavirus-infected cruise ship docked near Tokyo tested positive for COVID-19.
The woman in her 60s disembarked the Diamond Princess in Yokohama on Wednesday following a two-week quarantine on board, but was found to be positive following another test.
Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told a news conference in Tokyo on Saturday that 23 passengers were released from quarantine aboard the cruise ship without being tested for COVID-19 because of procedural mistakes.
Officials had tracked all the passengers which had not been tested and asked them to self-quarantine at home for 14 days, he said, adding that 19 of those passengers are Japanese citizens and four are foreigners who reside in Japan.
More than 630 people aboard the ship have been confirmed to have the virus. Inside Japan, 120 confirmed cases have been recorded as of Sunday. — Arata Yamamoto and Reuters