World

Italy records fourth coronavirus death

By AAP Newswire

A fourth person infected with the coronavirus has died in Italy, officials say as the government struggles to contain an outbreak of the illness and financial markets slid on fears over the economic impact.

More than 200 people in Italy have come down with the virus since Friday, latest data showed, the vast majority of them in the wealthy northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto.

Looking to slow the progress of the highly contagious disease, authorities in the worst hit areas have shut schools, universities, museums and cinemas, and banned all public events.

Almost a dozen towns in Lombardy southeast of Italy's financial capital Milan, with a combined population of nearly 50,000 have been placed under effective quarantine, with similar measures in place for a small town in neighbouring Veneto.

Italy has shut down major public events like the Venice Carnival amid the outbreak.

Italy's blue-chip index fell 4 per cent, with shares of businesses most at risk from an expected spending slump such as electronic payments group NEXI down more than 6 per cent.

Shares in Milan-based Banco BPM, Italy's third-largest bank rooted in Lombardy, fell nearly 7 per cent. Analysts have warned that the outbreak could shunt Italy's already fragile economy back into recession.

The worst-hit region Lombardy announced 53 new cases of coronavirus overnight, bringing the total there to 165 in just four days. Some 22 people had the virus in Veneto, while a handful of infections were also recorded in the adjacent regions of Piedmont and Emilia Romagna.

The fourth person to die of the virus came from Lombardy, officials said. He was an 84-year-old man who had been in hospital for treatment for an unrelated illness when he was struck down by the disease.

The three other people who have died of the illness were also elderly and at least two of them had serious underlying health problems.