Italy struggles to contain coronavirus as it becomes most infected country outside Asia

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Richard Pallot

Italy is struggling to contain the coronavirus outbreak, with several towns in lockdown, top-flight football matches cancelled and train travel being blocked by Austria.

With at least 152 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and at least three deaths, Italy is now the country with the most infected people outside Asia.

A dozen towns in the north of the country are on effective lockdown and three Serie A football matches, which were scheduled for Sunday in the regions of Lombardy and Veneto, have been postponed in a bid to prevent the further spread of the illness.

The remainder of Venice's Carnival events have also been cancelled.

And Austria has blocked rail travel in and out of Italy following fears that a train on Sunday night had two people on board who may have been infected.

Austria's interior ministry said it had been informed by Italy’s railway company that two people had fever and stopped the train at the Brenner crossing before it could enter Austria.

The Eurocity 86 train was coming from Venice en route to Munich in southern Germany.

Three other trains were also stopped, including two regional trains and a night train from Nice to Moscow, a spokesman for Austrian Federal Railways told The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, there are four more people in the UK who have been diagnosed with coronavirus, bringing the total to 13.

The new cases are among the 32 evacuees - reportedly made up of 30 Britons and two Irish nationals – from the Diamond Princess - a cruise ship on board which more than 600 developed the particular strain of the respiratory disease known as Covid-19.

Concerns are growing over Covid-19 - the respiratory disease caused by the current strain of coronavirus - in Italy due to the growing cluster of cases with no direct links to the origin of the outbreak in China.

The majority of cases in Italy are in rural towns, although Milan has at least one case.

Many businesses and restaurants are closed across the region, including in Milan, the capital of Lombardy and Italy's financial centre.

Some Sunday Mass services were also cancelled.

Towns in northern Italy were left deserted. Credit: Luca Bruno/PA

On orders from the government, the Italian league games called off were: Inter Milan v Sampdoria, Atalanta v Sassuolo and Hellas Verona v Cagliari.

Three other matches in Genoa, Turin and Rome on Sunday are going ahead as scheduled.

A man wearing a face mask BY the window of a shop in Codogno. Credit: Luca Bruno/AP

The mayor of Milan, Italy’s business capital and the regional capital of Lombardy, shut public offices.

A 78-year-old man infected with the virus died in Veneto.

A post-mortem on a 77-year-old woman in Lombardy came back positive, though it was not clear if illness from the virus caused her death.

The daily number of new cases of Covid-19 has risen along with the death toll. Credit: AP

The news from Italy comes as the death toll in mainland China from the virus has risen by 97 to 2,442, according to Chinese health authorities.

This marked a slight fall on the number of new deaths in the 24 hours to Sunday morning, compared to the previous day.

Officials also announced 648 new infections, representing a spike compared to the downward trend of recent days.

Nurses work at an ICU ward specialised for patients infected by coronavirus in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province. Credit: AP

The number of daily new cases also surged in South Korea where the president has put the country on its highest alert for infectious diseases and says officials should take “unprecedented, powerful” steps to fight a viral outbreak.

Meanwhile, in Iran, the death toll has climbed to eight, the largest outside China.

The total number of cases in China is 76,510, most of which are in Hubei, the province where Covid-19 originated.

Prior to the spike in daily infections, China’s leadership sounded a cautious note about the country’s progress in halting the spread of the virus, after several days of upbeat messages.

The Politburo, made up of the senior officials of the ruling Communist Party, said the situation in Hubei and its capital Wuhan remains grave.

“We should clearly see that the turning point of the development of the epidemic across the country hasn’t arrived yet,” the Politburo said at a meeting led by President Xi Jinping and reported by state broadcaster CCTV.

A huge screen about precautions against the COVID-19 is seen in downtown Seoul, South Korea. Credit: AP

Meanwhile, dozens of evacuees from a coronavirus-hit cruise ship begin their two-week quarantine in the UK, as 118 others rescued from China were released after 14 days in isolation.

Thirty-two people, who spent more than two weeks trapped on the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Japan, are settling in at an accommodation block at Arrowe Park hospital on the Wirral – their home for the next 14 days.

The group – reportedly made up of 30 Britons and two Irish nationals – will undergo regular health checks while in quarantine.

Four Britons who were on the cruise ship were not allowed to return home after testing positive for coronavirus, among them were Sally and David Abel who documented their quarantine on the cruise ship.

Sally and David Abel have both been diagnosed with pneumonia. Credit: David Abel

On Saturday, it was announced that both Mr and Mrs Abel had contracted pneumonia.

The Abels were on the cruise for their 50th wedding anniversary when it was placed into quarantine.

Mr Abel has now been diagnosed with acute pneumonia, while Mrs Abel has mild pneumonia.

On Sunday it was announced that the death toll in mainland China from Covid-19 - a respiratory disease caused by the latest strain of coronavirus - has risen by 97 to 2,442, Chinese health authorities said.