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Nation Cancels Big Festival Over Outbreak

With 133 cases reported, Italy calls off public events
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 23, 2020 12:00 PM CST

(Newser) – Scrambling to contain the rapidly rising number of new coronavirus infections in Italy, the most outside Asia, authorities on Sunday stepped up measures to ban public gatherings. Venice's famed carnival events, which have drawn tens of thousands of revelers to a region that is now in the heart of the outbreak, have been called off, the AP reports. "The ordinance is immediately operative and will go into effect at midnight,'' announced Veneto regional Gov. Luca Zaia, whose area includes Venice, where thousands packed St. Mark's Square to join in carnival fun. Carnival would have run through Tuesday. Buses, trains, and other forms of public transport—including boats in Venice—were being disinfected, Zaia said.

Three people in Venice have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, all in their late 80s and all hospitalized in critical condition. Zaia said among those infected was a nurse. Nearly all of Italy's 133 known cases are in the north. Authorities expressed frustration they haven't been able to track down the source of the spread of COVID-19 there, which surfaced last week when a man in Codogno in his late 30s became critically ill. "The health officials haven't been yet able to pinpoint Patient Zero,'' Angelo Borrelli, head of the national Civil Protection agency, told reporters in Rome. For now, the strategy is closures and other restrictions. Italy had taken measures early on in the global virus alarm, including banning direct flights from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau.

(Read more COVID-19 stories.)

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