Italy Cancels Venice Carnival Over Coronavirus Outbreak, as World Reaches ‘Tipping Point’

VENICE, ITALY - FEBRUARY 04: A man wearing a carnival costume attends the Flight of Angel in Saint Mark's Square on February 4, 2018 in Venice, Italy. The theme for the 2018 edition of Venice Carnival is 'Playing' and will run from 27 January to 13 February. (Photo by Awakening/Getty …
Awakening/Getty Images

The Venice Carnival has been cut short by officials in Italy, as the country faces the largest outbreak of the deadly coronavirus in Europe, leading a professor in the UK to warn that the world is facing a “tipping point” in the outbreak.

The carnival, which was scheduled to run until Tuesday, was shut down by authorities in the Veneto region of Italy.

So far five people have died and 219 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in Italy, the most in Europe and third-highest in the world behind South Korea and China, according to Il Giornale.

Italian officials have been unable to locate the source of the outbreak in the north, but they believe that it may have begun with a yet unidentified ‘super-spreader’.

“The health officials haven’t been yet able to pinpoint Patient Zero,” said Angelo Borrelli, the head of the Civil Protection Agency. A so-called super-spreader, a businessman who travelled from China to France to the United Kingdom last month, was blamed in other European cases.

In response to the outbreak, Italy has begun quarantining areas surrounding Venice and Milan, where approximately 50,000 people will be barred from leaving for the next two weeks. Businesses, schools and even football matches have been cancelled across the region.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Saturday that Italy would enact “extraordinary measures” that could last for weeks, including empowering armed police to enforce quarantines, reports the BBC.

Conte later said that there is “no need to panic” and that “the EU has full confidence in the Italian authorities and the decisions they are taking,”

Giuseppe Sala, the mayor of Milan said that schools in the region will close during the outbreak, following Milan University, which has already been shut down.

“As a precaution, I think that the schools have to be closed in Milan. I will propose to the president of the region to enlarge the precaution to the entire metropolitan city area. It is just a precaution, we don’t want to create panic,” he said.

The news from Italy comes as the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that there is a narrowing “window of opportunity” for the world community to tackle the quickly spreading virus.

A British professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia and an expert on the coronavirus, Paul Hunter, agreed that time is running out to contain the outbreak, telling The Guardian: “The tipping point after which our ability to prevent a global pandemic ends seems a lot closer after the past 24 hours.”

“The identification of the large cluster of cases in Italy is a big worry for Europe and we can expect there to be quite a few more cases identified in the next few days,” he added.

Four passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship have tested positive for the virus after 32 were flown back to the UK over the weekend, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Britain to 13.

“The virus was passed on in the Diamond Princess cruise ship and the patients are being transferred from Arrowe Park to specialist NHS infection centres,” said Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England.

A total of 2,592 people have died of Covid-19 coronavirus, with over 80,580 cases confirmed worldwide. In China, where the virus first emerged late last year, there have been over 2,440 confirmed deaths and at least 77,042 people infected.

On Sunday Chinese President Xi Jinping said the pandemic was the “largest public health emergency” since the communist nation was founded in 1948.

“This is a crisis for us and it is a big test,” he said, adding that China must learn from the “obvious shortcomings exposed” during the outbreak.

At least eight people were arrested in the initial phases of the outbreak for “spreading rumours“, including a doctor, Li Wenliang, who later died from the coronavirus.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka

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