The European Union has pledged €230 million to help fight the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, as member state Italy grapples with a rise in cases across the country.
Italian authorities announced three fatalities from the virus in the space of 48 hours, as it cancelled festivities for carnival.
An official from the Lombardy region announced on Sunday afternoon that a third person had died in Italy making it the first European member state to have a national die from COVID-19.
They revealed that 75-year-old woman from Lombardy had died on Saturday, which followed the death of man, 78, from Veneto.
At a press conference the EUís Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic, and the Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakidou announced the €230 million to go towards the "global fight" against the virus.
The money will be spent as follows:
€114 million to the World Health Organisationís (WHO) call for global preparedness
€15 million to support partner countries
€100 million to research funding, development of vaccines, and treatment
€3 million to support member statesí efforts on provision of personal protective equipment and on repatriations of EU citizens
The Commissioners insisted there will not be restrictions imposed on travel or trade at this point.
Italy grapples with the spread of COVID-19
Italy has reported 152 cases - the largest cluster outside Asia - including 89 people in Lombardy, 25 in Veneto, nine in Emilia Romagna and six in Piemonte, the head of the countryís civil protection service, Angelo Borrelli, said on Sunday afternoon.
The announcement came after at least ten towns in the north of the country were put on lockdown following a cluster of COVID-19 cases.
Many of the new cases represented the first infections in Italy acquired through secondary contagion.
Some of the cases came at the same hospital in Codogno, one of the Lombardy towns now on lockdown.
A 38-year-old man was hospitalised there and his wife and a friend have also contracted it. Five medical staff, including nurses and doctors, have also tested positive.
The sudden increase in the number of cases prompted authorities to suspend events related to the famous Venice carnival.
Veneto regional Governor Luca Zaia said the carnival shutdown would begin on Sunday evening. The event, which draws tens of thousands of visitors annually, was scheduled to end on Tuesday.
Austriaís railway company announced on Sunday evening that it had stopped all rain traffic to and from Italy over coronavirus fears.
íCluster of casesí
Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza said Italy is now seeing the same sort of cluster of cases that Germany and France have seen.
The Italian Health Ministry ordered anyone who came into direct contact with the three to be quarantined for 14 days.
About 150 people, including medical personnel, were in isolation undergoing tests.
Veneto regional president Zaia said that the contagion showed that the virus is transmitted like any flu and that trying to pinpoint a single source for the cases or to establish a link to China no longer were effective containment measures.
"You can get it from anyone," he told reporters. "We can expect to have cases of patients who had no contact" with suspected carriers. While the virus isnít particularly lethal, it can be for the elderly or people with existing conditions, he said.
Towns in lockdown
The mayor of Codogno issued a decree ordering the closure of all restaurants, coffee bars, schools and public gathering spots such as discos and gyms. The health ministry advised area residents to stay home as a precaution.
Local officials in another town, Casalpusterlengo, ordered local schools closed through Tuesday.
A third town, Castiglione díAdda, said its libraries, public offices, gyms and garbage depots would be closed as a health precaution.
The Codogno hospital closed its emergency room, and staff were seen wearing masks as movers brought in new beds and furniture as the quarantine got underway.
Deputy Health minister Pierpaolo Sileri said the manager who travelled to China and was put in isolation is not patient zero. Lab results showed the man did not develop antibodies against the virus.
Romeís infectious disease hospital is currently caring for three other people who were infected, including a Chinese couple from hard-hit Wuhan and an Italian who is now testing íípersistently negativeíí for the virus after two weeks of anti-viral treatment.
Despite the calls for safeguards, Italians were having a hard time finding protective face masks. A sampling of Milan pharmacies reported selling out weeks ago, as did a pharmacist in Codogno.
Local Italian media said on Saturday that at least 10 towns were effectively locked down: Casalpusterlengo, Codogno, Castiglione díAdda, Fombio, Maleo, Somaglia, Bertonico, Terranova dei Passerini, Castelgerundo and San Fiorano.
Individual cities outside the area covered by the ordinance, such as Cremona, issued their own restrictions after confirming there were local cases.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte held an emergency cabinet meeting with the Civil Protection on Saturday.
Conte declared the mandatory isolation of all people who were in contact with those who tested positive for the coronavirus and said the government was examining further measures to contain the outbreak.
More evacuees return to France
British authorities also announced on Sunday that four new people had been diagnosed with the virus, bringing the total of number of cases in the UK to 13.
"The virus was passed on in the Diamond Princess cruise ship and the patients are being transferred from Arrowe Park to specialist NHS infection centres," Public Health England said in a statement.
Meanwhile, a new plane repatriating 28 French people and 36 other EU citizens left Wuhan, China, on Friday, a diplomatic source confirmed to AFP.
The French evacuees will stay in quarantine in Calvados in Normandy.
This was the third plane sent from Paris to Wuhan, which has been under strict quarantine measures preventing travel for about a month.
This article has been corrected to say that ten towns are on lockdown. An earlier version said that there were twelve.