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Coronavirus: Police enforce separation in ‘terrorised’ Italy

China only reported 24 new cases on Wednesday, compared to thousands per day last month.


A policeman checks cars entering Milan (Claudio Furlan/AP)

A policeman checks cars entering Milan (Claudio Furlan/AP)

A policeman checks cars entering Milan (Claudio Furlan/AP)

Police are forcing people to keep apart in Italian cafes as part of efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

The number of people testing positive for Covid-19 has surpassed 10,000 in Italy, more than anywhere else in the world bar China where the outbreak began.

China only reported 24 new cases on Wednesday, compared to thousands per day last month, and the country is now seeing cases being brought in from overseas with six recorded cases in Beijing comingfrom outside the country: five from Italy and one from the United States.

Italy Virus Outbreak
Waiters pile up chairs and prepare to close, according to the Italian government measures to slow down the diffusion of the new coronavirus (Andrew Medichini/AP)

In Italy, many of Italy’s 62 million people have been encouraged to stay home and police across the country have patrolled cafes to ensure owners kept customers one metre apart during daylight hours and then enforced a strict 6pm closure order.

“It’s bad. People are terrorised,” said Massimo Leonardo, who runs a market stall. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Italy has found itself increasingly sealed off as other countries sought to keep infections contained.

Malta and Spain announced a ban on air traffic from Italy, while British Airways and Air Canada suspended all Italy flights.

We will certainly defeat this epidemicXi Jinping

Britain, Ireland, Hong Kong and Germany strengthened travel advisories and urged their citizens to leave and even the Vatican erected a new barricade at the edge of St Peter’s Square.

“Get out of northern Italy if you’re there,” said Erik Broegger Rasmussen, head of consular services for Denmark’s foreign ministry.

But in China, the diminishing threat prompted President Xi Jinping to visit the central city of Wuhan, the centre of the outbreak, on Tuesday and declare: “We will certainly defeat this epidemic.”

“Things are slowly returning to normal,” said Yang Tianxiao, a finance worker in Beijing, where the city government is gradually easing restrictions.

Financial Markets Wall Street
The coronavirus has had a strong impact on the stock market (Richard Drew/AP)

Meanwhile, New York’s governor announced he is sending the National Guard to scrub public places and deliver food in a New York City suburb that is at the centre of the nation’s biggest known cluster of infections.

In Washington state, where 19 of its 24 deaths have been connected to a Seattle-area nursing home, Governor Jay Inslee announced new rules for screening health care workers and limiting visitors at nursing homes.

And in California, thousands of restless passengers stuck on a cruise ship hit by the coronavirus waited their turn to get off the vessel and head to US military bases or their home countries for two weeks of quarantine.

The virus has shaken global markets, with stocks, oil and other financial markets around the world went on another wild ride on Tuesday, clawing back ground after their historic plunge the previous day.

Investors are likely to see more big swings until the number of infections slows down, and fear was still rampant that economies stood at the brink of recession, market watchers said.

“We are in a global panic,” said Estelle Brack, an economist in Paris. “We are in the deep unknown.”