Italy has said all shops except pharmacies and food outlets will be closed in response to the country’s coronavirus outbreak as the death toll from the disease in the country jumped sharply in the last 24 hours.
A top Italian doctor said intensive care wards should place an age limit on beds as a way of prioritising medical resources amid the deepening crisis that has seen cases in Italy rise by 196 to 827 today.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the latest wave of restrictions in a dramatic appeal to the nation that came as the country of 60 million battles its biggest crisis in generations.
Conte said in his nine-minute evening prime time address to the nation: ‘Thank you to all Italians who make sacrifices. We are proving to be a great nation.’
Italians have watched ever-tighter restrictions slowly eat away at the very fabric of everyday life as a government decree on Monday stopped non-essential travel between cities and banned public gatherings.
The existing clampdown on public gathering and basic travel had already emptied streets and shuttered everything from churches to restaurants.
It comes as total confirmed infections in Europe rose to 23,339 with 951 deaths, according to a new tally which is compiled from official sources.
In Italy, the number has risen to 12,149 cases with 827 fatalities. More European countries are reporting their first deaths of people with the new contagion.
In another development top doctors suggested that rather than admit patients on a ‘first come first served’ basis, hospitals should swap to ‘catastrophe medicine’ guidelines – typically used in war zones and during natural disasters – where those with the greatest chance of survival are given priority.
If a limit on beds is implemented it could mean elderly patients with no signs of coronavirus being turfed off ICU wards to make space for younger patients who have longer left to live.
The guidelines should apply to all patients needing intensive care treatment and not just those suffering from coronavrius, according to guidance published this week by the Society of Anesthesia, Analgesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care (SAARI).
Elsewhere, Ireland, Belgium, Bulgaria and Albania reported their first virus-related deaths earlier on Wednesday.
- World Health Organisation officially declared virus crisis a pandemic as European cases climbed over 22,000
- WHO said today it was ‘deeply concerned by the alarming levels of spread and severity’ of the coronavirus
- Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom blasted governments for ignoring repeated WHO pleas to take urgent and aggressive action since the spread outside China rose 13-fold in the space of a fortnight
- At least 112,000 patients infected worldwide and 4,000 have died since the outbreak began last December
- Since it began in China, Europe is now centre of the outbreak, with growing outbreaks in Italy, Spain, France, Germany and the UK where the eighth death was recorded today
In Sweden the death of an elderly woman who had been in intensive care represented the first virus-related death for the whole Nordic-Baltic region.
Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced today that the country will close all kindergartens, schools and universities for two weeks.
The tough new measures will also include banning indoor events with 100 or more participants, and sending non-critical public sector employees home.
Private sector workers will also be encouraged to work from home, after the Danish Patient Safety Authority reported 442 new cases yesterday.
On Thursday Saudi Arabia temporarily suspended travel of citizens and residents and halted flights with several states due to coronavirus fears.
The decision includes the European Union, Switzerland, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Sudan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Eritrea, Kenya, Djibouti, and Somalia, source added, saying the Kingdom also suspended entry to those coming from these countries.
Saudi Arabia also suspended passenger traffic through all land crossings with Jordan , while commercial and cargo traffic is still allowed, and the passage of exceptional humanitarian cases.
The decision excludes health workers in the Kingdom from Philippines and India, and evacuation, shipping and trade trips taking necessary precautions. Saudi Arabia has 45 virus cases.
Swiss customs authorities have shut down nine border crossings with Italy, the epicentre of Europe’s coronavirus outbreak, to channel border traffic through seven other sites.
The move announced today follows a decision by Italian authorities to continue to allow cross-border traffic with Switzerland despite adopting strong quarantine measures across Italy.
Neighbours Austria and Slovenia have barred travellers from Italy without a medical certificate.
In Italy a rise in cases of 31 per cent was reported today by the Civil Protection Agency, the largest increase in absolute numbers since the contagion came to light on February 21.
The total number of cases in Italy, the European country hardest hit by the virus, rose to 12,462 from a previous 10,149, an increase of 22.8 per cent.
However, the agency said some 600 new cases were confirmed on Tuesday but only reported on Wednesday.
The head of the agency said that, of those originally infected, 1,045 had fully recovered compared to 1,004 the day before. Some 1,028 people were in intensive care against a previous 877.
Italy announced 200 deaths from coronavirus on Tuesday in the largest daily rise yet, as infections spiked to more than 12,000.
One new case was Juventus footballer Daniele Rugani, who become the first Serie A player to test positive for coronavirus today.
Medics have warned that the UK and US are approximately two weeks away from facing the same scenario.
Spain’s coronavirus cases have surpassed 2,000, with roughly half of them in the Madrid region, where two-thirds of the country’s virus deaths have occurred.
Two more Disneyland Paris maintenance workers also tested positive for the virus. They were diagnosed with the illness just days after going into quarantine when their colleague tested positive over the weekend.
Poland closed all schools, museums and cinemas for two weeks, while Ukraine’s capital city Kiev will shut all educational buildings due to fears of the virus spreading.
Both countries have lower rates of infection compared to the rest of Europe, but Polish ministers said that pre-schools and schools would stop teaching on Thursday.
The entirety of Italy has since been placed on lockdown, with medics in badly-hit regions saying they are struggling to cope with a huge spike in patients.
In a booklet on coronavirus published on Friday, SAARI lays out its recommendations for a worst-case scenario.
While all efforts should be taken to ensure everyone gets care, doctors say it is likely that multiple hospital will be stretched beyond their limits ‘in the next few weeks’.
Around 10 per cent of coronavirus cases in Italy have so far developed serious complications, they note, requiring extensive treatment with ventilators which are in short supply.
In the event that they run out, SAARI says: ‘It may be necessary to place an age limit on admission to intensive care.
‘This is not a value judgment but a way to provide extremely scarce resources to those who have the highest likelihood of survival and could enjoy the largest number of life-years saved.’
Doctors should also take into account how many other conditions patients are suffering from when deciding whether or not they deserve access to intensive care, medics say, and not simply base their judgement on age.
They warn that this will lead to an increase in deaths from people who are not suffering directly from the virus, but who can no longer be treated.
The guidelines have not yet been adopted, but provide a blueprint of what Italy could do should the situation spiral out of control further.
On Tuesday, the World Health Organization officially declared coronavirus a pandemic after the number of patients struck down by the killer infection across the world surpassed 112,000 and the death toll neared 4,500.
The boss of the UN agency said it was ‘deeply concerned by the alarming levels of spread and severity’, with outbreaks continuing to spiral out of control.
Dr Tedros Adhanom also warned inaction by governments across the planet has fuelled the crisis, adding: ‘We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action.’
In a desperate call to action to contain the escalating crisis, he said: ‘We’re in this together, to do the right things with calm and protect the citizens of the world. It’s doable.’
A pandemic is defined as the uncontrolled worldwide spread of a new disease – the last crisis to be given the official label was the 2009 swine flu outbreak, which killed hundreds of thousands of people.
More than 112,000 people globally have now been infected with the coronavirus, which can cause pneumonia and shut down crucial internal organs. The crisis in China, where the outbreak began, has slowed dramatically.
Europe is now the centre of the crisis, with the number of cases soaring every day in Italy – where all 60million residents have been affected by an unprecedented lockdown. Outbreaks are also growing in Spain, France, Germany and the UK.
Britons have been told to leave Italy and go home as the country shuts down everything in a drastic bid to stop a coronavirus outbreak.
The nation is grappling with the worst epidemic in the world outside China and more than 10,000 people have now caught the infection there. 631 have died.
The UK Foreign Office today urged British people to fly home while they still can as the Italian government urges tourists to leave and airlines are cancelling flights.
In a statement officials said: ‘The Italian authorities have advised against travel for tourism purposes throughout Italy, and that tourists already on holiday in Italy should end their travel, unless it is necessary, to return to the place where they live.’
Plane tickets out of Italy are quickly becoming hot property after British Airways, Easyjet, Jet2 and WizzAir cancelled all of their routes between Italy and the UK.
Ryanair is flying normally until Saturday, when it will stop for almost a month, and Easyjet said it would operate ‘rescue flights’ in the coming days.
One couple from Hertfordshire spent £600 in their desperate bid to get out of the country, driving through the night from Milan to Turin to ensure a seat to London.
Others who have returned in the last 24 hours said the situation was nowhere near this bad when they left and many now face two weeks in isolation at home in case they’ve caught the coronavirus.
A statement from the Foreign Office today said: ‘British nationals remain able to depart Italy without restriction.
‘Airports remain open throughout Italy. However, the Italian authorities have advised against travel for tourism purposes throughout Italy, and that tourists already on holiday in Italy should end their travel, unless it is necessary, to return to the place where they live.
‘Airline schedules are subject to change and some flights are being cancelled.
‘We therefore advise all remaining British tourists in Italy to contact their airline operators to arrange return to the UK as soon as possible.’