Schools and universities will stay closed for a second consecutive week in three northern Italian regions in an effort to contain Europe’s worst outbreak of coronavirus, dashing any hopes of a swift return to normality, APA reports citing Reuters.
The decision was taken as the death toll from the contagion rose by eight during the day to 29, while the total number of cases jumped by 240 to 1,128 — the vast majority in the wealthy regions of Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia Romagna.
Besides a growing human cost, the government is also worried by the likely impact on Italy’s fragile economy, with the respected REF Ricerche thinktank warning that the crisis could cut national output by between 1%-3% in the first half of 2020.
Deputy Economy Minister Antonio Misiani said on Saturday the government was working on a slew of measures to “boost growth at national level” and would ask parliament next week to let it push up the 2020 budget deficit to help pay for the move.
“The decree will mobilize very substantial resources,” he said, without giving precise details.
Looking to halt the spread of the highly infectious disease, the government last week banned public gatherings across much of northern Italy and shuttered educational centers.
The virus is concentrated in just a few, relatively small areas and locals had hoped restrictions would ease elsewhere.
However, government experts said all nurseries, schools and universities in the three worst-hit regions must remain closed until at least March 8. Discussions were still continuing into when museums, theaters and cinemas, that have also been closed since last Sunday, might be able to re-open there.
By contrast curbs in neighboring Liguria and Piedmont, which have seen very few infections, were relaxed and classes are expected to resume in these regions next week.