Cases of coronavirus in Italy looked set to surge past 450 by late Thursday afternoon as the outbreak continued to cause havoc in the north of the country.
Major sports fixtures have already been cancelled and there were fears that one of Italian football’s biggest matches, Inter Milan – Juventus, could be played with no fans.
The game is due to be played in Turin in northwest Italy. The epicentre of the outbreak, which has killed 12 people in Italy, is in the Lombardy region and Milan is its capital.
“I hope that from today there will be a regression in the diffusion of the virus so that I too can go see Juventus-Inter,” said Attilio Fontana, the governor of the Lombardy region. “We’re monitoring the situation. I’m very calm. We need to see what the situation is. It’s the same as for the schools. We’ll do a check Saturday and then we’ll see.”
Schools, museums and theatres have been closed in the two hardest hit regions and troops are enforcing quarantines around 10 towns in Lombardy and the epicenter of the Veneto cluster, Vo'Euganeo.
Lombardy Governor Attilio Fontana said that one of his staff tested positive for the virus and that, although he remains healthy, he’s putting himself in isolation. He closed the video by putting on a face mask.
Meanwhile a 60-year-old French man became the second person to die from the virus in the country. President Emmanuel Macron warned of a “crisis before us” and said “an epidemic is on its way”.
The British government is reportedly considering establishing mass burial sites in the worst case scenario of coronavirus spreading rapidly.
News of the plans came as a further two people in the UK tested positive for the virus after visiting Italy and Tenerife.
The number of cases have increased in Europe as Finland registered its first case.
According to BBC Newsnight the UK government is preparing contingency plans in the case of “excess deaths”. But the programme said the move was standard practice when dealing with large outbreaks of diseases such as in the 2009 swine flu outbreak.
In London, four children at a school attended by Queen Elizabeth’s great grandchildren Prince George and Princess Charlotte are in self isolation as a precaution after visiting northern Italy. A number of schools have been forced to close temporarily after students visited Italy as part of their half-term breaks.
Germany, too, has warned of an impending endemic with interior minister Horst Seehofer saying the situation has “clearly deteriorated”.
The term ‘beginning of an epidemic’ means that the number of cases will increase,” he said.
Mr Seehofer said Germany was monitoring transport links by air, sea and land and will ask international travellers arriving on trains and buses to fill in landing cards stating where else they have been.
Greece, which is a gateway for refugees from the Middle East and beyond, announced tighter border controls, with particular attention on islands used by migrants.
Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa has, however, insisted that so far “there are no situations that would justify closing any border”.