Italy Plans Kissing Ban to Fight Coronavirus After Shutting Down All Schools
Italian COVID-19 death toll hits 107 as schools, universities, sporting venues locked down
Italy is planning a ban on public kissing as Italian authorities struggle to contain the outbreak of coronavirus that ripping through the country.
The death toll for COVID-19 sufferers in Italy hit 107 on Wednesday as the number of people infected in soared to over 3,000 in Europe's worst-hit country.
On Wednesday, the Italian government closed all schools, universities, and sports venues while preparing other emergency measures to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's government has now released a decree telling the nation, among other restrictions, that the public must refrain from the traditional Italian greeting of kissing each other on the cheek.
All sporting events will now also take place in empty stadiums - without fans present - for at least the next month due to the virus outbreak, a later announcement confirmed.
Among the PM's rules are the closure of cinemas and theatres and telling Italians not to shake hands or hug each other and to avoid "direct physical contact with all people."
Conte last night said the measures were needed to stop its health service from crumbling amid warnings the toll is more severe than currently known.
He said: "We are focused on taking all measures for direct containment or delaying the spread of the virus.
"The health system risks going into overload, and we will have a problem with intensive care if an exponential crisis continues."
Cases from Italy have been reported across the world.
On Tuesday, the Netherlands became the latest country to advise against traveling to the worst affected areas of Italy, while Tunisia stopped ferry services.
Authorities in Rome have created two "red zones" affecting 11 towns with 50,000 people in the wealthy Lombardy and Veneto regions in the north of the country.
They are considering extending the zone to the city of Bergamo after a cluster of cases there.
Education Minister Lucia Azzolina said schools and universities all over the country would be closed from Thursday until at least March 15.
Only those in the northern regions most heavily affected by the epidemic have been closed so far.
On Wednesday, the number of cases since the outbreak surfaced rose to 3,089 from 2,502 on Tuesday.
Of those who contracted the disease, about 3.5 percent had died, the head of the agency, Angelo Borrelli, said.
Mr. Conte's rules also order all major sporting events, including top-flight Serie A soccer matches, to be played in empty stadiums.
All sporting events throughout the country must take place behind closed doors until April 3.
Schools and universities have been ordered to close until March 15.
The school closures, however, caused jubilation among some children and mixed reactions from parents.
"I hoped for this decree because I feared an outbreak at school," said Massimiliano Del Ninno, father of a Rome primary school student.
"Even if we are dealing with an age group that doesn't seem to be at risk, they could have been carriers."
Clarissa Mazzei, a 30-year-old mother of three, called it "tragic ... for the students, and also for the parents."
Ten percent of virus patients in Italy were in intensive care with respiratory problems, the health chief of the Lombardy region in northern Italy has said.
Officials in Italy also said it could take up to two weeks to know whether measures including quarantines in 11 northern towns were working.
China is still by far the hardest-hit country, with 80,151 cases and 2,943 deaths.
The virus has been detected in at least 70 countries with 90,000 cases and 3,100 deaths.
The count of COVID-19 cases in the United States surpassed 100 in 11 states.
President Donald Trump and his Cabinet met with pharmaceutical executives Monday to discuss how to speed the search for a vaccine.