World

Italy's coronavirus cases surge as China vows to defeat epidemic

Italians were facing travel restrictions and sweeping quarantine measures amid news on Tuesday that the country recorded close to 1,800 new cases of coronavirus.

Canadians returning from Grand Princess cruise ship to be quarantined for 2 weeks

A discharged COVID-19 patient carries luggage while departing Wuchang Fang Cang makeshift hospital, which is the latest temporary hospital being shut down in Wuhan, China's Hubei province. (Getty Images)

The latest:

  • Italy reports nearly 1,800 new coronavirus cases.
  • Alberta cases double, B.C. has highest number in Canada.
  • Air Canada suspends flights to and from Italy.
  • China's president visits Wuhan, epicentre of outbreak, as temporary hospitals close.
  • Canada reports 1st COVID-19-related death after man living in B.C. long-term care facility dies.
  • Flight carrying Canadians who were on Grand Princess cruise ship arrives at CFB Trenton.
  • Read more about what we know about the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Italians were facing travel restrictions and sweeping quarantine measures amid news the country has 1,797 new cases of the coronavirus.

Italy has a total of 9,172 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 463 deaths, including 97 reported on Tuesday, according to the World Health Organization's daily report.

Travel restrictions previously limited to Italy's north have been extended across the country.

Police patrolled cafes to make sure owners were keeping customers one metre apart. Officers at Rome's main train station checked commuters' paperwork to ensure they had legitimate reasons to leave their own neighbourhoods, such as for work. The Vatican even erected a new barricade at the edge of St. Peter's Square. 

While Italy began an extraordinary lockdown, the diminishing threat in China prompted President Xi Jinping to visit the epicentre and declare: "We will certainly defeat this epidemic."

Xi's trip to the central city of Wuhan — his first since the start of the outbreak late last year — was the latest sign that China is edging back toward normalcy after weeks of extreme quarantine measures. China reported just 25 new infections Tuesday, down from thousands each day last month.

"Things are slowly returning to normal," said Yang Tianxiao, a finance worker in Beijing, where the city government is gradually easing restrictions that kept many office workers at home.

Xi addressed patients and medical workers via a video link. He also strolled through an apartment complex where residents are still quarantined.

"Wuhan must prevail, Hubei must prevail, all of China must prevail," Xi said.

With patient numbers falling, Wuhan closed the last of 16 temporary hospitals used mainly to house those with mild symptoms.

Authorities in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, stepped up preparations for resuming business production, reopened some roads to restore agricultural production and announced the launch of a colour-coded app-based system that will allow people who are deemed healthy to travel freely within the province.

Internationally, Italy's status as the centre of Europe's coronavirus outbreak was reinforced as some airlines decided to shun its airports.

Malta and Spain announced a ban on air traffic from Italy. British Airways cancelled flights to the country. Austria and Slovenia barred travellers from Italy from crossing their borders without a medical certificate. Britain, Ireland, Hong Kong and Germany strengthened travel advisories or flat-out urged their citizens to leave Italy. 

Ryanair, Europe's busiest airline, cancelled all international flights to and from Italy starting Saturday until April 9. The carrier said passengers currently in Italy could fly home on one of the flights operating up to Friday night.

Air Canada suspends Italy flights 

"We're only at the beginning," said Dr. Massimo Galli, head of infectious disease at Sacco Hospital in Milan, where people at the city's main train station were required to sign forms certifying the necessity of their travel.

Air Canada is suspending flights to and from Italy. The airline's last flight to Rome was scheduled to take off from Toronto on Tuesday, with the final return flight departing Rome for Montreal on Wednesday.

The airline hopes to restart service May 1. Meanwhile, it says, affected customers will be notified and offered a full refund.

WATCH: Canadian describes life under lockdown in northern Italy:

Don't panic and stay calm, says Canadian living under virus lockdown in Italy. 6:15

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The World Health Organization says people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while severe cases may last three to six weeks. In mainland China, where the outbreak emerged in December, almost three-quarters of its more than 80,000 patients have recovered. 

But with more than 110,000 cases in reported  in countries around the world, WHO and local health officials are emphaszing the importance of educating the public about how to avoid infection, and preparing health systems to deal with a surge in cases.

Here's a look at what's happening in Canada, the U.S. and some of the hard-hit regions around the world.

Here's what's happening in Canada

A flight carrying Canadians who were aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship landed at CFB Trenton early Tuesday morning. The chartered plane, which departed from California, ferried the Canadian travellers to Ontario, where they will complete a 14-day quarantine period. 

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said 228 people were on the flight. He said a "limited number" of people who had other medical conditions unrelated to COVID-19 will stay behind to be treated in California.

Champagne said there are also some Canadian crew who were on the Grand Princess who tested positive for COVID-19 who will stay in the U.S. for treatment. He did not specify how many Canadians tested positive.

Officials had previously said there were 237 Canadians among the 3,500 passengers and crew on board the Grand Princess cruise ship.

The repatriated travellers arrived a day after Canada reported its first COVID-19 related death. A man in his 80s who lived at a long-term care facility in North Vancouver died on Monday, provincial health officials said.

WATCH | Virus 'like a bomb' says Italian doctor:

Doctor at epicentre of Italian outbreak says coronavirus is a potential disaster for the entire world. 6:57

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will announce on Wednesday supports for people and businesses affected by COVID-19. ​​​​​​

Ontario health officials announced two new cases on Tuesday. One is a man in his 40s who had travelled to Switzerland. The second case is a man in Sudbury in his 50s who went to hospital last Saturday. Health officials say the man attended a major mining conference in Toronto March 2 and 3.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford both made appearances at the same conference.

The Sudbury man is recovering at home in self-isolation.

As of 6 p.m. ET on Tuesday, 94 presumptive and confirmed COVID-19 cases had been reported in Canada, including:

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, reiterated on Monday that the risk from the coronavirus to the general population in Canada is low, but she cautioned that the situation could change rapidly. 

"We are most concerned for Canada's vulnerable populations," Tam said.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said some provinces have indicated they don't have all the supplies they might need to respond to COVID-19 cases.

"We are gathering that information — and we have said all along that we will be there as a federal government to support them with the resources they need, whether those are financial resources or practical resources."

Here's what's happening in the U.S.

Concern has been growing in the United States, where more than 750 people have been infected, and new measures were announced for a city in New York state.

New Rochelle, just north of New York City, with a population of around 80,000, is at the centre of an outbreak of 108 cases in Westchester County, out of 173 confirmed infections across the state.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said National Guard troops will help clean surfaces and deliver food in a 1.6-kilometre "containment area" around a point near a synagogue.

He said schools, houses of worship and large gathering places will be shuttered for two weeks to fight what has become the nation's biggest known cluster.

The United Nations said it will close its headquarters complex in New York to the general public and temporarily suspend all guided tours starting Tuesday evening. About 1,000 people visit UN headquarters every day.

WATCH | Weighing the risks of mass gatherings:

Some of the Canadians who were aboard a cruise ship off the coast of California have arrived in Ontario and will spend 14 days in quarantine. 4:51

New Jersey reported its first death from the coronavirus, a 69-year-old Bergen County man with underlying medical conditions who had travelled to New York City. 

In Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee announced the state is preparing for many more cases than have been reported, potentially tens of thousands, based on estimates of the spread of the disease. The state has 190 cases, up 74 from Monday. Twenty-two patients have died, 19 of them linked to the Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland.

U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence said on Tuesday that federal authorities would unveil recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the next 24 hours aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus in the four states hardest hit so far by the outbreak: Washington, California, New York and Florida.

Here's what's happening elsewhere in Europe

Spain has so far reported 36 deaths and 1,639 coronavirus cases, a sharp surge from the 589 cases recorded on Sunday. The country's cabinet has banned direct flights between Italy and Spanish airports. Across the Madrid region, parents prepared for a two-week school shutdown starting on Wednesday.

Albanian authorities have closed all centres where people may gather. The country has had 10 cases so far, all linked to two people who visited Italy. All flights and ferries to and from Italy have been suspended except those for commercial purposes.

Slovenia's acting prime minister says he has ordered the closure of the border with EU neighbour Italy.

Austria also introduced a ban on people arriving from Italy, with exception for citizens returning home and people with a doctor's note certifying they are healthy.

In France, the death toll from COVID-19 has risen to 30. Poland, which is reporting 17 cases, moved to cancel all mass events.

U.K. health minister tests positive

The number of people testing positive for the coronavirus in the U.K. has risen to 382, up from 319 the day before, with six deaths, health officials said on Tuesday. U.K. Health Minister Nadine Dorries said she has tested positive for the virus and has been self-isolating at home.

Earlier, the health ministry said a sixth person had died in Britain after acquiring the virus.

The Czech Republic, which has 40 confirmed cases, is banning all public events with more than 100 people and is closing schools.

Here's what's happening in Iran and the Middle East

Iran said Tuesday the coronavirus has killed 54 more people, raising the death toll to 291 amid 8,042 reported cases in the Islamic Republic. Many experts fear the scope of the illness there is far wider than reported.

WATCH | Israel imposes strict measures:

A look at what risks are taken into consideration when deciding where a mass gathering, like a conference, is cancelled. 1:59

Lebanon recorded its first death from the coronavirus on Tuesday, local broadcasters said, adding that the patient had been in quarantine since returning from Egypt. The government has halted flights for non-residents from epicentres of the virus, shut schools and warned against public gatherings as the total number of cases rose to 41 this week.

Here's what's happening in South Korea and Japan

A downward trend in new coronavirus cases in South Korea raised hope on Tuesday that Asia's biggest outbreak outside China may be slowing, but officials urged vigilance with new clusters of infections emerging from a call centre and a dance class. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 35 new coronavirus cases, down from a peak of 909 on Feb. 29.

The new figures brought the national tally to 7,513, while the death toll rose by eight to 59. The fall in the daily tally of new infections to its lowest level in 11 days coincided with the completion of testing of most of the roughly 200,000 followers of a fringe Christian church at the centre of South Korea's epidemic.

Japan, which has been dealing with both domestic patients and hundreds of people who were infected while living under quarantine on a cruise ship, passed an emergency bill that allows the prime minister to declare a state of emergency, if needed.

Workers at a building where 46 people were confirmed to have COVID-19 wait in line for a coronavirus test at a temporary facility in Seoul on Tuesday. (Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)

With files from CBC News, Reuters and The Canadian Press

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.