Coronavirus sparks total lockdown in Italy and alarm in the US as cases rise globally

Hong Kong CNN  — 

The novel coronavirus outbreak continues to spread globally, sparking a total lockdown across Italy and emergency measures worldwide, as markets recover from Monday’s historic rout.

The virus, known as Covid-19, has now infected close to 113,000 people worldwide and resulted in more than 4,000 deaths. The majority of these cases are in mainland China, where the outbreak first emerged – but the rate of infection has been slowing in the country, and the situation stabilizing, even as the virus wreaks havoc elsewhere

In an apparent show of confidence, Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in virus-stricken Wuhan Tuesday, his first visit to the city at the epicenter of the global outbreak since the crisis began. The trip comes as Chinese authorities recorded 19 new cases, 17 of which were in Wuhan, and two were imported from overseas – marking the third straight day of no locally transmitted cases outside Hubei, the province of which Wuhan is the capital. Of the country’s 80,754 patients, nearly 60,000 have recovered and been discharged from hospitals.

Other Asian countries like South Korea are also beginning to see a slowdown in the virus’ spread. South Korea, which has carried out more than 190,000 tests as part of a free nationwide screening program, recorded it’s lowest number of daily confirmed cases of the virus in weeks on Tuesday – a sign that the country may has “passed the peak” of the outbreak, South Korean Health Minister Park Neunghoo told CNN.

But these cautious signs of progress throw into sharp relief the deteriorating situation in the West.

States across the US are declaring emergencies, with even congressmen being self-quarantined after exposure to a patient. And in Europe, the outbreak that began in Italy has spread far and wide, with nearby countries like Germany reporting dramatic spikes in daily cases.

All of Italy is under lockdown

In an unprecedented and potentially legally fraught move, all of Italy and its 60 million residents have been placed under lockdown, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced on Monday, part of a raft of sweeping quarantine measures intended to contain the outbreak.

The northern region of Lombardy and 14 other provinces had already been placed under lockdown – but this new decree will extend those restrictions across the entire country, as the virus continues to spread throughout Italy and mainland Europe.

The drastic measures include blanket travel restrictions, a ban on all public events, the closures of schools and public spaces such as movie theaters, and the suspension of religious services including funerals or weddings.

To enforce the movement ban, military police, railway police, and health workers are carrying out checks on transportation sites like highways and train stations.

This lockdown represents the toughest coronavirus response to be implemented outside of mainland China, and comes as the country buckles under the weight of the epidemic.

Parts of Italy, particularly the northern regions, are seeing a “tsunami of patients,” and the healthcare system is “one step from collapse,” said Antonio Pesenti, intensive care coordinator in the Lombardy crisis unit.

So far, Italy has 9,172 cases and 463 deaths – the most of any country outside of China.

The new lockdown may help slow the virus from spreading further – but some, like the Lombardy president, fear it is “still insufficient” given the sheer scale and speed of the Italian outbreak.

The virus spreads across the US

The virus is rapidly spreading across the United States too, with new cases reported in at least 20 states on Monday.

The country now has 732 confirmed and presumptive positive cases and 26 deaths, spread out across 36 states and the capital, Washington, DC.

Washington state has been the hardest hit; 22 of the country’s 26 deaths were in Washington, which has 180 cases. At least 10 states, including Washington, have declared states of emergency, which give state governments access to emergency funds and powers.

But there are signs of growing frustrations with the federal government’s handling of the outbreak. On Sunday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing delays, and earlier this month, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee criticized the Trump administration for not sticking “to the science.”

In some ways the friction began as early as February, when new federal travel restrictions ruffled state and local officials, who complained the rollout had been opaque and confusing. But these tensions are only ramping up now as the virus threatens to disrupt people’s lives and livelihoods.