“Corona phobia” is gripping Europe, which was a relative safe-haven of the pathogen, with the number of confirmed cases of the new type of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Italy spiraling out of control.
The number of confirmed cases of the disease in Italy surged to 155 (three dead) as of Sunday night, ANSA news agency reported. The number of the infected has almost doubled overnight from 76. Notably, 110 patients (about 71% of the confirmed patients) were living in Lombardy, the northern state of Italy home to Milano, the economic hub of the country.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte declared a travel ban on Sunday on 11 towns in Lombardy and adjacent Veneto. Major events that Italy takes pride in, such as Venice Carnival and the Serie A football league, have all been canceled. Meanwhile, the prices of hand sanitizers, which used to be three to four euros per unit, soared to scores of euros, and even the rip-offs are nearly sold out.
Against this backdrop, the unclear cause of the spread of the virus is fueling the concern. Lombardy government authorities consider a 38-year-old man in Codogno, a small town near Milano, as patient zero and the epicenter of infections in the region. He had been hospitalized for symptoms of pneumonia on last Wednesday, and those who contacted him, his doctors and nurses have all acquired the infection from the man.
A major tourism powerhouse, Italy is visited by a plethora of Chinese tourists. In Prato, a city near Firenze of Toscana known for its textile industry, about 15 % of the population, or 30,000, are Chinese. Considering the undocumented Chinese immigrants, experts point out that Toscana is not safe from the virus either.
Concerns are raised that Italy might morph into the “Wuhan of Europe” after the Chinese city of Hubei province from which the pathogen is thought to have originated.
Youn-Jong Kim firstname.lastname@example.org