Italy sees virus cases spike 45% in one day; 11 now dead

Italy virus cases up 45%

Italy reported a 45% one-day increase in people infected with the coronavirus as other countries in Europe recorded their first cases Tuesday, producing evidence that travellers are carrying the virus from the European outbreak's current epicenter.

Italian officials reported 11 deaths and 322 confirmed cases of the virus, 100 more than a day earlier. While the majority were concentrated in northern Italy, some of the new cases registered outside the country's two hard-hit regions, including three in Sicily, two in Tuscany and one in Liguria.

An Italian couple from the afflicted north tested positive in the Canary Islands off Africa, forcing the quarantine of their hotel in what one guest said felt like being “monkeys in a cage.” Austria, Croatia and Switzerland reported their first cases, all in people who recently travelled to Italy.

The four new deaths in Italy,like the seven reported earlier, were in patients who were elderly, suffering from other ailments or both, officials said.

Amid increasing cases and distribution problems with protective gear and test kits,Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte defended the measures Italy has taken to contain the outbreak and predicted a stabilizing of numbers soon. But he acknowledged that the rise in cases — the most outside Asia — was “worrisome."

“Obviously I can't say I'm not worried because I don't want anyone to think we're underestimating this emergency," he said before a meeting with a visiting World Health Organization mission. “But we trust that with the measures we've implemented there will be a containing effect in the coming days.”

Italy has closed schools, museums and theatres in the two regions where clusters have formed and troops are enforcing quarantines around 10 towns in Lombardy and the epicenter of the Veneto cluster, Vo'Euganeo.

But Italy hasn't yet identified the source of the outbreak. Angelo Borrelli, the head of the Italian civil protection department, said the increase in cases from 222 to 322, representing a 45% increase, came from people who tested positive for the virus in a 24-hour period from Monday evening to Tuesday evening.

The southern island of Sicily reported its first three positive cases from a woman vacationing from Bergamo, in Lombardy and two others travelling with her. Two cases were also reported in Tuscany, south out of the epicenter.

Spain counted three active cases: a woman in Barcelona who had been in Lombardy in recent days, and a doctor from northern Italy and his partner who were vacationing in Tenerife, in the Canary Islands.

The hotel where the couple was staying, the H10 Adeje Palace was locked down after they tested positive for the virus, and 1,000 tourists were prevented from leaving the hotel grounds, though they were allowed to circulate outside their rooms and use the hotel facilities.

“We feel a little bit like monkeys in a cage here as there are media representatives present near the hotel and police officers guarding the area are wearing masks,” Harriet Strandvik, the mother in a family of four at the hotel, told Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat.

Hotel guests were informed of the quarantine via a flyer slipped under their doors late Monday: “Kind guests, we inform you that the hotel is closed for health reasons.''

Italians Paolo and Laura Martinelli waited in their room Tuesday for a medical team to take their temperatures. “There’s a beautiful view of the sea which we are watching right now. We don’t feel like recluses,’’ Martelli, 89, told The Associated Press by telephone.

The Canary Islands, an archipelago west of the African coast, is a popular vacation destination that attracts Europeans year-round.

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