Coronavirus: Italy records seventh death as European outbreak worsens

Markets slid on Monday due to virus fears despite strict containment measures in Italy

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Seven people infected with coronavirus have died in Italy, officials said on Monday, as the government struggled to contain Europe’s worst outbreak of the virus.

More than 200 people in the country have tested positive for the virus since Friday, the vast majority of them in the wealthy northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto.

Italian media reported that the dead patient was 88 and came from Lombardy.

The southern European country now has the third highest number of confirmed cases of the virus after China and South Korea.

In an effort to stop the spread of virus, authorities in the worst-hit areas of Italy ordered schools, universities, museums and cinemas to be closed, as well as banning all public events.

About a dozen towns, with a combined population of about 50,000, have been placed under effective quarantine in Lombardy, a region that includes Milan.

Similar measures are in place for a town in Veneto, a neighbouring province that contains Venice, which draws millions of tourists to Italy each year.

Lombardy, the region in Italy most badly affected by the virus, announced 53 new coronavirus cases on Sunday night, bringing the total there to 165 in only four days.

At least three of the other victims had serious underlying health problems.

At least 22 people had the virus in Veneto, while a handful of infections were also recorded in the nearby regions of Piedmont and Emilia Romagna.

In the UK, four people who returned to the country from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan on Saturday tested positive for the virus.

Three passengers died while another tested positive at home, despite a negative reading while the ship was quarantined.

The worsening outbreak caused Italian shares to slump by 4 per cent on Monday, leading a sell-off in European stock markets as an increase in the number of coronavirus cases outside China prompted fears of a greater than expected toll on global growth.

Milan shares were on course for their biggest percentage loss since June 2016 as Italy faced the biggest flare-up of coronavirus cases in Europe.

The pan-European STOXX 600 and all the major regional indexes were down by more than 3 per cent.

The euro and British pound dropped as investors sought safety in the US dollar.

Sterling lost most of Friday’s gains on the dollar by Monday morning and the euro weakened by 0.3 per cent to $1.0805, close to last week's level of $1.0778 - a nearly three-year low.