Coronavirus Update: South Korea declares highest alert level while Italy battles to contain infection

The emergence of major outbreaks outside China in countries including South Korea and Italy have raised concerns on how the virus is transmitted

South Korea raised its coronavirus alert to the “highest level” on Sunday as the number of confirmed cases rose 25-fold in five days, prompting the country to block domestic travel, as well as institute other sweeping measures to contain the virus. 

So far six people have died from the virus in the country and more than 600 have been infected. 

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Sunday that the country is now facing an unprecedented and “grave turning point”, and the next few days would be crucial in the efforts to contain the outbreak.

Meanwhile, Italy has announced steps to try to contain alarming outbreaks of the virus in the country by applying strict quarantine restrictions in the two densely populated “hotspot” regions around Milan and Venice, where there are now 150 confirmed cases of infection. The spike, from fewer than five confirmed cases before Thursday, has quickly made Italy the region’s first major outbreak. 

Italian government officials are now battling to contain the outbreak, closing businesses and schools, suspending activities, locking down at least ten towns near Milan, and cancelling several sporting events and the iconic Venice Carnival. 

Most of the new cases have occured in the region of Lombardy, close to Milan. Now, around 50,000 people will not be able to enter or leave several towns in Veneto and Lombardy for the next couple of weeks without special permission. 

In mainland China, where the outbreak began, the number of fatalities among confirmed cases have now surpassed 2,400, and almost 650 new cases of the virus have been confirmed, the country’s National Health Commission reported on Sunday. While the number of cases continue to rise, there have been less than 1,000 recorded each day over the past four days.

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