Italy’s Democratic Party Head Tests Positive for Coronavirus

The head of Italy’s Democratic Party said he’s tested positive for the coronavirus, as his government prepares new measures including extending quarantine areas to deal with the outbreak, the biggest in Europe.

“I am fine and will remain at home for the next few days,” Nicola Zingaretti, 54, said in a post on Facebook. His party is the second-biggest in Italy’s coalition government.

Among the steps being considered is an expansion of the quarantine area in the northern region of Lombardy, the economic engine around Milan. With Italy’s economy already at risk of recession before the outbreak, the crisis has all but paralyzed business activity in the region — home to major companies including carmaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.

The government decided on Thursday to double the amount planned to help contain the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the economy to 7.5 billion euros ($8.4 billion.) It’s also calling up 20,000 doctors, nurses and medical personnel to help deal with the outbreak.

The number of fatalities has risen to 197, with infections growing by 78 to 4,636, the fourth highest in the world after China, South Korea and Iran. One case was diagnosed in the Vatican — the tiny walled city-state in central Rome that is home to Pope Francis and “emeritus” Pope Benedict XVI.

Italy this week shut down its schools and universities until March 15, following similar measures taken by Hong Kong and Japan, which is enforcing a complete school shutdown due to last until April.

As many as 8.7 million Italian children and students are affected from kindergarten to high schools, as well as their families. Many in the afflicted regions, from Milan to Venice and Bologna, are already confined at home. Schools in Northern Italy have been closed since Feb. 24.

Italy also suspended sports competitions, closed cinemas an, 54,d theaters and banned people from accompany patients in hospital emergency rooms. Elderly people were advised to avoid leaving home and to keep away from crowded areas.

A decree also listed 11 hygiene recommendations including: avoid hugs and handshakes, wash your hands often, stay at least a meter away from other people, cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, and wear a protective mask only if you believe you may be ill or if you are helping someone who is ill.

The tourism industry has been hard hit by a U.S. State Department notice last week advising citizens to reconsider travel to Italy due to the outbreak. The U.S. issued the same level advisory for South Korea on Feb. 26 because of the virus.

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