Italy reports coronavirus cases top 1,100 and deaths reach 29

By Associated Press Reporter

Italian authorities say the country now has more than 1,000 coronavirus cases and 29 people infected with the strain known as Covid-19 have died.

The head of Italy’s civil protection agency said during a news conference that the total number has reached 1,128. Officials also reported eight more deaths in the previous 24 hours of people with the virus, bring Italy’s total to 29.

Civil protection chief Angelo Borrelli said 52% of the people who tested positive for the virus in Italy are being isolated in their homes and not sent to hospital.

A tent set up in front of the emergency ward of the Cremona hospital in northern Italy (Claudio Furlan/Lapresse via AP)

Health authorities said they suspect the new cases confirmed since Friday involved infections acquired before Italy shut down 11 towns in northern Italy on February 21.

They said it would take at least two weeks – the period of incubation – for the effect of the containment measures to show up in fewer new cases.

A US government advisory urging Americans to reconsider travel to Italy due to the spread of Covid-19 was described as the “final blow” to the nation’s tourism industry by the head of Italy’s hotel federation.

The US State Department issued a level three travel advisory – the second-highest level of warning – for the whole of Italy on Friday, saying that the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention had recommended “avoiding non-essential travel”.

Other major countries have issued warnings for only defined areas of northern Italy where most cases of the coronavirus are clustered.

More than 5.6 million Americans visit Italy every year, the second-largest national group behind Germans, according to the most recent statistics. They represent 9% of foreign tourists in Italy, and are among the biggest spenders at an average of 140 euro (£120) a day for a collective total of 5 billion euro (£4.3 billion) a year, the hotel federation Federalberghi said.

A waiter cleans tables and chairs in an empty restaurant terrace at St Mark’s Square in Venice (AP/Francisco Seco)

Federalberghi president Bernabo Bocca said: “We had already registered a slowdown of Americans coming to Italy in recent days. Now, the final blow has arrived.”

The Assoturismo Italian tourism federation was already warning that the sector that is responsible for 13% of Italian GDP risked collapse from the virus outbreak’s impact on travel.

March bookings were down 90% in Rome and 80% in Sicily, Assoturismo said, referring to parts of Italy largely untouched by the virus so far. The industry federation estimated that cancelled reservations for March would cause 200 million euro (£172 million) in economic damage – and that was before the US upgraded its advice on travelling to Italy.

The federation’s president, Vittorio Messina said: “This is the darkest moment. Not even September 11 hit so heavily.”

The Italian government has taken action to help the tourism industry, such as delaying deadlines for tax payments and a moratorium on industry mortgages.