(Updates number of cases)
By Valentina Za and Riccardo Bastianello
MILAN, Feb 22 (Reuters) – Cases of the new coronavirus in Italy, the worst affected country in Europe, rose on Saturday to nearly 60, including two people who have died, and spread to the financial capital Milan.
Authorities in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto, where the outbreak is concentrated, have shut down schools and banned public events while companies from Ray-Ban owner Luxottica to the country’s top bank UniCredit have told workers living in the worst hit areas to stay home.
Lombardy and Veneto represent Italy’s industrial heart and jointly account for 30% of gross domestic output.
The first death was a 76-year-old woman who was found dead at her home 50 km (30 miles) south of Milan on Thursday and tested positive for the coronavirus. A 78-year-old man died of the infection in a hospital near Padua on Friday night.
The man’s wife and daughter are among 12 people infected by the coronavirus in the Veneto region, where authorities are considering suspending Carnival of Venice events currently taking place.
Lombardy Governor Attilio Fontana said patients in his region totalled 46, including a man currently at San Raffaele hospital in Milan. The city, where Women’s Fashion Week is underway, has a population of 1.4 million.
Organisers of the world’s biggest eyewear trade fair, MIDO, said on Saturday the coronavirus emergency had prompted them to postpone the event to the end of May. The fair had been due to take place in Milan in a week.
SMALL TOWN AT HEART OF OUTBREAK
The outbreak originated in Codogno, a small town southeast of Milan where Lombardy’s first infected patient was treated.
That patient was a 38-year-old man, who fell ill after meeting a friend who had visited China. His condition has stabilised, authorities said.
“All those who have tested positive are people who on February 18-19 had contacts with the emergency room and the hospital of Codogno,” Regional Health Councillor Giulio Gallera said, adding 259 people had been screened in the area in the past two days and 35 had tested positive.
“A contagion rate of 13% is quite strong,” he said.
Some 50,000 residents in Codogno and nearby towns have been advised to remain indoors. Public gatherings including Sunday church services and football matches have been suspended, and schools and shops have been closed down.
Similar measures were adopted in the small Veneto town of Vo’ Euganeo where the male victim lived, and in various other places.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Saturday the government was ready to consider further measures.
Italy was the first euro zone country to suspend all direct flights to and from China, after two Chinese tourists from the badly hit city of Wuhan tested positive in Rome in late January.
The Chinese tourists and an Italian national repatriated from Wuhan were the only three cases in Italy until Friday. (Reporting by Valentina Za in Milan and Riccardo Bastianello in Padua Editing by William Maclean, Ros Russell and Frances Kerry)