Italy authorities urge calm as coronavirus deaths mount

A man stands outside the San Siro stadium after the Inter Milan v Sampdoria Serie A match was cancelled due to an outbreak of the coronavirus in Lombardy and Veneto, in Milan, Italy, February 23, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 24 February 2020

Italy authorities urge calm as coronavirus deaths mount

CASALPUSTERLENGO: Italy reported Monday its fifth death from the new coronavirus, as the number of people contracting the disease continued to mount and officials called for calm.
Four of the dead were in the northern Lombardy region, where villages have been put under lockdown and security measures enforced in a bid to stem the spread of the disease.
Italian media reported a sixth victim, but officials could not immediately confirm this.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said that residents could face weeks in lockdown in an effort to sit out the virus.
“We need to stay alert, but do not panic! We must keep our heads,” said Attilio Fontana, Lombardy’s president.
The civil protection agency said 219 people had now tested positive in Italy, which has the most confirmed cases in Europe.
Eleven towns — 10 in Lombardy and one in neighboring Veneto — are under lockdown, with some 50,000 residents prohibited from leaving.
Regional authorities have ordered gathering spots, such as schools, bars, restaurants, cinemas and discos to close.
The measures imposed in the country’s north affect some 30 million inhabitants, the Repubblica daily said.
The spread of the virus has disrupted high-profile events including Milan Fashion Week and the Venice Carnival, while Serie A football matches have been postponed. Operas have also had to be canceled at Milan’s famed La Scala.
Masses in churches across the affected regions have been canceled and funerals limited to immediate relatives only.
Forty passengers on an Alitalia flight from Rome to Mauritius were held on landing Monday and refused permission to disembark, unless they consented to being placed in quarantine.
Alitalia said it was arranging for their immediate repatriation instead, despite none of the passengers showing any symptoms.
The stock market in Milan was down over 5.0 percent on Monday in a broad-based sell-off over virus fears.
Most of the cases in Italy are in Lombardy, a prosperous region in the country’s north where Milan is located, and which borders Switzerland.
They can be traced back to a 38-year-old man in the town of Codogno whom authorities have called “patient one.” He has not traveled to China and doctors failed to treat him with the necessary precautions.
But the man initially believed to have given him the virus after returning from Shanghai later tested negative.
“We still do not know who brought the coronavirus to Codogno,” Galli said.
Investigators are reconstructing minute by minute the man’s movements over the past few weeks — where he slept, ate, walked — in a bid to trace everyone he could have come into contact with.
“We had the most unfortunate situation possible; the outbreak of an epidemic in a hospital,” infectious disease expert Massimo Galli told the Corriere della Sera daily.
“In these cases, a hospital can turn into a frightening amplifier of contagion,” he said.
The virus may have spread to the Veneto region via a 60-year old farmer from Albettone. He had recently traveled to Codogno and is known to frequent bars in Vo’ Euganeo — where the region’s only victim so far lived.
A stretch of the Veneto region borders Austria.
Milan mayor Beppe Sala urged people to stay calm and refrain from “dashing to the supermarkets to grab food.
“We should spend time looking after the most vulnerable, such as old people, who are particularly at risk,” he said.
According to Italy’s national statistics institute, there are over seven million people in the country over the age of 75.
Italy has proposed a meeting of the health ministers of its border countries to determine “common lines of action” in the face of the coronavirus epidemic, the civil protection agency said.
France has said there is no need to close borders in response to the spread of virus in Italy.
Hungarian authorities issued a warning to citizens traveling to northern Italy, asking them to postpone their trip if possible, while incoming passengers will be screened at Budapest and Debrecen airports for fever symptoms.
Croatia meanwhile suspended all school strips to Italy for a month, and Switzerland said it was in a “state of heightened vigilance” due to the spread in Italy.
The jump in new coronavirus cases in Iran, Italy and South Korea in recent days is “deeply concerning,” the head of the World Health Organization said on Monday.
Simon Clarke, a specialist in cellular microbiology at England’s Reading University, said: “It seems that the virus can pass from person to person without symptoms, making it extremely difficult track, regardless of what health authorities do.”


British-Pakistani nurse, 36, dies of coronavirus

Updated 03 April 2020

British-Pakistani nurse, 36, dies of coronavirus

  • The mother of three, believed to have had no underlying health issues, first experienced symptoms on Mar. 13 and was later taken into intensive care
  • She showed slight signs of improvement last week but died in the early hours of Friday

LONDON: A 36-year-old NHS nurse died on Friday after being infected with coronavirus and fighting for her life in intensive care.
British-Pakistani Areema Nasreen had been placed on a ventilator at Walsall Manor Hospital in the West Midlands where she worked in the acute medical unit, the BBC reported.
The mother of three, believed to have had no underlying health issues, first experienced symptoms on Mar. 13 and was later taken into intensive care. She showed slight signs of improvement last week but died in the early hours of Friday.
Paying tribute to the nurse, Richard Beeken, chief executive of Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, said Nasreen “was a professional, passionate nurse who started at the trust as a housekeeper in 2003 before working hard to gain her nursing qualification in January 2019.”
“Her dedication to her role and her popularity among her colleagues is obvious to see with the outpouring of grief and concern we are seeing around the organization and on social media. We will do everything that we can in the coming days and weeks to support those that need it,” he added.
Beekan said Nasreen always aimed to make a difference and that she “will be very sadly missed.”
Nasreen’s close friend Rubi Aktar, also a nurse, posted the news of her death on Facebook and described her as “the most loveliest, genuine person you could ever meet.” She added that her friend “above and beyond for everyone she met.”
“I’m so grateful that I had the honor to call her my best friend, she saw me at my best and my worst and accepted my every flaw. I am so broken that words can’t explain. I can’t believe I will not see your smile again,” Aktar wrote.
“You made me the nurse that I am today, with your support, motivation and inspiration I am the nurse that I am today and I hope I can do you proud Areema. I love you so much and I will never forget you. You had so much to live for, I am sorry you didn’t get to see your kids grow up and I’m sorry that you didn’t get to complete your career,” Aktar added.
Dr. Samara Afzal, a doctor who knew Nasreen, described her as a devoted nurse and “always full of life.”
“I’m lost for words..I beg you all to stay at home and keep everyone safe,” Afzal tweeted.

Meanwhile, England’s chief nurse Ruth May pleaded with Britons on Friday to stay at home over the weekend, invoking the names of Nasreen and another nurse, Aimee O’Rourke, who also died of coronavirus.   

"This weekend is going to be very warm and it will be very tempting to go out and enjoy those summer rays," May said.

"But please, I ask you to remember Aimee and Areema. Please stay at home for them," she said.

"They were one of us, they were one of my profession, of the NHS family," May said.

"They were clearly remarkable women, nurses and mothers," she added in a statement.