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(CNB News) – The Italian government is to close all schools and universities around the country until mid March because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The government has decided to close all of Italy’s schools and universities from Thursday until the middle of March because of the coronavirus, sources said Wednesday.
Schools are already closed in the northern regions worst hit by the emergency, Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna, as well as in Piedmont and Friuli Venezia Giulia and in the province of Savona, in Liguria, and Pesaro-Urbino, in Marche. Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora, meanwhile said Wednesday that the government was likely to order that professional soccer matches and other big sporting events be played behind closed doors because of the coronavirus emergency.

Italy will close all schools and universities across the country

Italy will close all schools and universities around the country until mid-March in an effort to stop the coronavirus outbreak, Ansa news agency report.

State-run RAI, the ANSA and LaPresse news agencies reported that Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte had agreed on the closure during a cabinet meeting. But Education Minister Lucia Azzolina told reporters that nothing is final yet and a decision will be made in the next few hours.

The closure would come into effect from Thursday and will last until mid-March, which comes as the authorities struggle to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Earlier on Wednesday, Italy had the dubious honor of being the worst-affected country from the coronavirus outside Asia, having overtaken Iran in terms of the number of deaths and infections from the virus.

The death toll in Italy jumped to 79 on Tuesday, up from an official total of 52 on Monday. As of Wednesday morning, there are 2,502 cases of the virus in Italy, according to Italian media reports that are updated ahead of the daily official count, published by Italy’s Civil Protection Agency every evening.

Italy’s coronavirus numbers had surpassed Iran’s official infection count until the Islamic Republic released its latest official infection and death count. On Wednesday, it announced that 92 people had died from the coronavirus and 2,922 had been infected.  There is speculation over the accuracy of Iran’s tally of the epidemic.

The outbreak of the coronavirus has centered on Italy’s wealthy northern regions of Lombardy (with 1,520 cases), Veneto (307 cases) and Emilia-Romagna (420 cases). But it has spread throughout the country and now only one out of Italy’s 20 regions, Valle D’Aosta, is yet to record a case.

Italy’s health authorities said Tuesday they may set up a new quarantine area, a so-called “red zone,” to try to contain the coronavirus outbreak, Reuters reported.

“None of us can be sure about the future evolution of the disease. This is an important week to understand what will happen,” Angelo Borrelli, head of the Civil Protection Agency, told a news conference Tuesday. A new quarantined area could be declared around the city of Bergamo, northeast of Milan, to try to stem a sharp rise in cases there.

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