The Italian government on Wednesday took a page out of China’s playbook in battling the coronavirus epidemic as the government announced it will temporarily shutter all of the nation’s schools and universities.
The closure will go into effect from Thursday and will last until mid-March, according to Italian media reports.
The move came as the death toll in Italy climbed to 79 on Tuesday, up from 52 on Monday. As of Wednesday morning, there were 2,502 officially reported cases of the coronavirus in Italy, making it the worst-impacted country outside of Asia, including Iran, though the accuracy of Iran’s reporting of cases has been widely viewed as circumspect.
On Wednesday, Iran’s official tally was 92 dead and 2,922 infected.
Italy’s health authorities said Tuesday they were contemplating a new “red zone” quarantine area to try to contain the coronavirus outbreak. The new quarantined area could be around the city of Bergamo, northeast of Milan, where there has been a sharp rise in cases reported.
“None of us can be sure about the future evolution of the disease. This is an important week to understand what will happen,” Angelo Borrelli, head of the country’s Civil Protection Agency, told reporters at a news conference in Italy on Tuesday.
Economists are already predicting that Italy’s economy will enter recession because of the outbreak, which like in parts of China and Asia has ground economic activity to a halt. The eurozone’s third-largest economy, Italy’s economy was already on fragile ground before the coronavirus outbreak, with forecasts of only 0.5% growth in 2020.