On Wednesday, Italy imposed sweeping nationwide restrictions on travel and public life, in a desperate attempt to contain the coronavirus outbreak that looks set to plunge the world’s eighth largest economy into a steep recession. The measures announced include travel restrictions on 60 million residents, a ban on public events, the closure of schools, cinemas, museums and gyms, restaurants, bars and shops. The Government took action as the number of deaths caused by coronavirus reached 827 and infections topped 14,000.
The restrictions are in place until at least April 3.
Ever since the contagion first came to light in the prosperous northern region of Lombardy on February 21, scientists have been hunting for the so-called “patient zero”.
After extensive analysis, the Milan team has not yet identified the individual at the root of the worst outbreak in Europe, but they have matched the Italian genetic sequencing of the virus to a case that emerged in Germany in January.
Massimo Galli, head of the university research group and of the infectious-diseases department at Milan’s Sacco hospital, said: “The sequence closest to the base of the branch, which is the one that probably precedes the others, came from a person infected in Munich in all likelihood between January 19-22.”
Mr Galli added that the German patient had caught the virus after contacting someone who came from Shanghai.
“We can imagine that a person who contracted the virus in the context of those infected in Munich came to Italy and the area where the virus first spread without showing any symptoms,” Galli told Reuters.
He said their analysis showed that the Italian outbreak must have started between Jan 25-2well before the first patient was officially diagnosed in the northern town of Codogno.
In a video posted on his Youtube channel, famous Italian journalist and writer Mario Giordano accused Germany of a “coronavirus cover-up”, as he claimed that despite knowing that the virus had been present in their country, German officials kept quiet.
He said: “The news that the first case of contagion would have been in Germany has not had enough visibility.
“They knew everything but didn’t say a word.”
According to the latest figures, Spain has now surpassed 6,390 confirmed cases, with Germany and France nearing the 5,000 mark, while Italy has reached at least 21,157.
The UK now has 1,140 confirmed cases.
At least ten European countries have put in place border closures, including Denmark, Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic.