Shocking coronavirus outbreak prompts Italy to ban kisses, handshakes

Officials in Italy were set on Wednesday (March 4) to urge people to stop greeting each other by kissing or shaking hands, as the European countries considers every possible measure to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Other measures to be approved by the government Wednesday, briefed in advance to the media, include what promises to be an unpopular plan to play all football matches without fans.

But fears over the rapid rate at which COVID-19 is spreading inside and outside Italy has prompted the government to consider whether to close all schools nationwide for two weeks, rather than just ones in the cluster regions. Education Minister Lucia Azzolina, in a statement, said that a final decision hadn’t been made yet.

Italy has become the newest frontier of a fast-spreading virus, an outbreak outpacing its central China epicentre—the Mediterranean country’s 79 deaths to date stands as the world’s third-most affected by number of fatalities after China and Iran.

It has more than 2,500 cases in all and the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus appears to be spreading faster and wider by the day.

Italian Minister of Education Lucia Azzolina. (Photo: Il Corriere dell’Umbria)

Italy recorded 13 deaths over the weekend. Then 18 more deaths were reported on Monday, followed by 27 on Tuesday.

The overwhelming majority of the deaths have occurred in Milan’s Lombardy region and the neighbouring northern area around the cities of Bologna and Venice.

But 21 of the 22 regions have now had cases, with only the Aosta Valley on the French border so far unscathed.