Italy jumped from three reported cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus last week to four deaths at least 190 people testing positive in the northern part of the country by Monday. In response, Italy quarantined a dozen towns and sent masked police officers to guard checkpoints, canceled soccer matches and closed schools, scrapped the final day of Milan Fashion Week, and called off Venice's Carnivale, its famed annual pre-Lenten masked bacchanalia. At the same time, Italian authorities pleaded for calm, noting that the virus has a lower mortality rate than the flu and that all four people who died were elderly.
Italy instituted strict travel bans and airport screenings on Jan. 31, and authorities still haven't located the source of the sudden outbreak. Austria has temporarily suspended cross-border travel with Italy and other European countries are considering similar actions.
South Korea and Iran also have rising numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths, raising concerns about global spread of the virus, which started in Wuhan, China. South Korea, with 833 confirmed cases and seven deaths, has the highest number of infections outside China. Iran state media has reported 12 deaths from the coronavirus, though the death toll in the holy city of Qom is said to have hit 50.
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Fears about the global economic impact of the coronavirus helped send stock markets sharply lower on Monday, with European indices leading the declines.
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