Coronavirus: Italy closes all schools and universities until mid-March

A man receives assistance in a pre-triage medical tent in front of the Cremona hospital, northern Italy (Picture: Getty)

Italy is shutting shut down schools and universities until March 15 because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Officials agreed to take the drastic measure after a jump in cases and deaths from the virus.

The Government previously closed some schools and universities in the worst-affected regions in northern Italy and quarantined a handful of towns at the epicentre of the outbreak.

However, the contagion has spread, with at least 79 people dying and more than 2,500 infected.

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A cleaner sanitises seats at the San Paolo football stadium ahead of the Coppa Italia semi-final between Napoli and Inter Milan, which has since been postponed (Picture: Reuters)

The virus has spread south but the vast majority of cases remain centred on the original hotspots, with the addition of Emilia Romagna, another affluent region which borders on both Lombardy and Veneto and now has more cases than Veneto.

In a worrying development, a policeman and a fireman based in Rome have also tested positive, authorities said, raising the risk of the virus spreading in the Italian capital.

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Cases in Rome, Italy’s largest city with three million people, had previously been limited to a Chinese couple on holiday and an Italian repatriated from the Chinese city of Wuhan - where the outbreak originated late last year - on a special flight and hospitalized. All three recovered.

Italy’s Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora said on Wednesday the government was likely to order that all top-flight Serie A soccer matches should be played behind closed doors in a further effort to contain the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

The government last month banned sporting events in the country’s most affected northern regions and so far ten Serie A matches have been postponed.

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Countries with confirmed cases of coronavirus (Picture: PA)

Coronavirus European round-up

On Tuesday, France had 212 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection, up from 191 on Monday.

In total four people have died from the infection in the country.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased to 240 on Wednesday, up from 196 on Tuesday afternoon, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said.

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A couple wearing protective masks takes a selfie in front of the Louvre Museum in Paris (Picture: Getty)

Germany has not reported a fatal case of the virus, which emerged in the Chinese metropolis Wuhan late last year and is quickly spreading around the world.

Around 150 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus in Spain, while some 100 health workers in the Basque region have been isolated in their homes after coming into contact with people carrying the virus.

Dutch health authorities have reported 18 coronavirus infections since 27 February.

Coronavirus UK round-up

In total 85 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus in the UK.

As of Wednesday, a total of 16,659 people have been tested.

Government scientific experts predict the UK’s coronavirus outbreak could last around four to six months.

Globally, there are now more than 90,000 cases worldwide with more than 3,000 deaths.