A policeman and a fireman based in Rome have tested positive for the new coronavirus, authorities said, raising the risk of the virus spreading in the Italian capital.
Around 90 percent of the 1,694 cases reported in Italy up to March 1 are concentrated in the wealthy northern regions of Lombardy, Veneto, and Emilia Romagna.
Cases in Rome, Italy’s largest city with 3 million people, had so far been limited to a Chinese couple on holiday and an Italian repatriated from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the outbreak began late last year, on a special flight and hospitalized. All three recovered.
Authorities reported late on Sunday that a Rome policeman had tested positive. On Monday, the Spallanzani infectious diseases hospital where he was staying announced that his wife, two children, and sister-in-law were also infected.
A fireman living at barracks in the southeast of the city tested positive on Monday.
The school attended by the policeman’s son, in the nearby town of Pomezia, was closed and lessons were suspended in the university faculty at Rome’s main Sapienza university, attended by his other son.
On Monday, the local government in Lombardy said all its members would undergo tests after a councilor tested positive.
The national civil protection agency will give an update of cases at its daily briefing around 1700 GMT.
Italy, the European country worst affected by the outbreak, has recorded 34 deaths and seen economic sectors from manufacturing to tourism hit by a plunge in orders.
Several international airlines including Lufthansa Delta Airlines and countries such as the Czech Republic have reduced or suspended flights to Italian cities, including Milan.
Work From Home
Milan cathedral reopened to the public on Monday, but schools and universities remain closed and many companies told staff to work from home.
The top of UniCredit skyscraper in Milan was lit in red, white and green, the colors of the Italian flag, in a sign of solidarity with people hit by the virus.
Lombardy’s regional governor Attilio Fontana and the councilor responsible for welfare Giulio Gallera, the main public faces of the crisis management effort, are among those who will be tested.
Fontana has placed himself in voluntary partial quarantine after an assistant tested positive, isolating himself in a room in his office in the regional government headquarters, an Italian daily reported.
As the human toll grows, the government is increasingly worried about the economic outlook. Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri announced the cabinet would this week approve 3.6 billion euros ($3.5 billion) in measures to help companies.
An aid package worth 900 million euros was unveiled on Friday for the worst-impacted zones.
National statistics bureau ISTAT reported on Monday that the 2019 budget deficit came in at 1.6 percent of national output, the smallest fiscal gap for 12 years.
The much lower-than-expected reading potentially gives the coalition of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the centre-left Democratic Party more leeway to spend and borrow this year.
By Gavin Jones and Angelo Amante