An elderly cancer patient became the third person known to be infected with the coronavirus to die in Italy, health officials said on Sunday, as the number of people contracting the virus continued to mount.
The death of the woman in a hospital in the small city of Crema in Lombardy, the centre of Italy’s coronavirus scare, followed that of a 77-year-old woman on Saturday and a 78-year-old man on Friday, the first victim of coronavirus in Europe.
The head of Italy’s civil protection department, Angelo Borrelli, said during a news conference that 152 people had now tested positive for the virus, including the three deceased.
The cancer patient had been hospitalised for a few days, said Lombardy’s health chief, Giulio Gallera.
“She’d been tested and they already knew she had the coronavirus,” Gallera said, adding that it was too early to know whether the virus was the actual cause of death.
The deaths, and steadily rising cases of infected people, have prompted a series of security measures to try to check the spread of the contagion.
Eleven towns — 10 in Lombardy and 1 in Veneto — are under lockdown, with residents prohibited from leaving. Regional authorities have ordered gathering spots, such as bars, restaurants and discos to close.
Schools throughout the affected areas are to remain closed next week.
Most of the cases in Italy are in Lombardy, a prosperous region in the country’s north, and can be traced back to a 38-year-old man whom authorities have called “patient one.”
The man, who is intensive care, dined last month with another man who had visited China in January. He exhibited flu-like symptoms at the time of the dinner, but has since tested negative for the virus, media reports said.
And health officials are still puzzled over certain cases with no obvious links with infected persons.
“The rapid increase in reported cases in Italy over the past two days is of concern,” the World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said on Sunday.
“What is also worrying is that not all reported cases seem to have clear epidemiological links, such as travel history to China or contact with a confirmed case,” he added.
Experts from WHO and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control plan to arrive in Italy on Tuesday, he said.
Mounting worries over the spread of the virus have disrupted fashion shows at Milan Fashion Week and cancelled operas at the famed La Scala.