Greece, Austria, Croatia, Switzerland and France say the coronavirus cases in their country involved people who visited Italy, as did Algeria in Africa.

A man wearing a protective facemask plays with pigeons in the Piazza del Duomo in central Milan, on February 24, 2020 following security measures taken in northern Italy against the Covid-19.
A man wearing a protective facemask plays with pigeons in the Piazza del Duomo in central Milan, on February 24, 2020 following security measures taken in northern Italy against the Covid-19. (AFP)

The Brazilian government has confirmed the first case of a fast-spreading new coronavirus in Latin America, a source said on Wednesday, after a Sao Paulo hospital flagged a 61-year-old who had visited Italy.

Other European countries also announced first coronavirus cases possibly linked to the growing outbreak in Italy.

Greece, Austria, Croatia, Switzerland and Norway said the coronavirus cases in their country involved people who visited Italy, as did Algeria in Africa.

This map by TRT World shows the intensity of the coronavirus outbreak in countries across the world as of 1240 GMT on February 26, 2020.
This map by TRT World shows the intensity of the coronavirus outbreak in countries across the world as of 1240 GMT on February 26, 2020. (TRTWorld)

Opposition slams government over virus

In an exclusive interview with Bloomberg News, Italian opposition leader Matteo Salvini accused Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of underestimating the coronavirus threat and urged government to earmark at least $11 billion for emergency measures to help businesses and families hit by the disease.

Salvini, who heads the right wing opposition party,  told Bloomberg the virus underlined how urgently Italy needed to close its ports to migrants arriving from North Africa.

“We cannot turn Sicily into a quarantine island. We have to stop people from docking because they should all be put into quarantine. Europe should take charge, should distribute them in other countries, Italian ports should be closed.” 

Lombardy outbreak expands

A Covid-2019 in northern Italy worsened on Wednesday, with more than 30 new cases confirmed in the two worst-hit regions and children found to have the illness for the first time.

Officials in Lombardy, which includes Italy's financial capital Milan, said cases had risen overnight to 259 from 240 on Tuesday, with four children, including a four-year-old girl, infected in the first such cases in the country.

In neighbouring Veneto, the number of people confirmed to have caught the flu-like virus was 58, an increase of 13 on the previous tally given on Tuesday.

The death toll from the contagion, which came to light on Friday, stands at 12. 

All those who have died so far have been elderly and most had underlying health problems.

Spreading to Sicily

After first emerging in Italy in Lombardy and Veneto, the country's economic powerhouse, the illness has now spread to seven other regions, including Sicily in the far south, with the total number of cases nationwide climbing above 350.

Italians or people who had recently visited the north of the country have tested positive in Greece, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Croatia and France since the weekend, showing how far and fast the illness –– which was first identified in China last month –– could spread.

In bid to halt the outbreak, authorities have shut schools, universities, museums, cinemas and theatres across much of the north. 

Many countries have advised their nationals not to visit the north of Italy and hoteliers have reported a wave of cancellations, putting the local tourism industry at threat.

"We should stay calm, there is no reason to be particularly afraid," said Elisabetta Jacona, a Milan resident and doctor.

"The only advice I can give, as a doctor, is telling people who are more at risk, elderly people or people with previous pathologies ... to avoid going out."

Analysts have warned that the outbreak could shunt Italy's fragile economy into its fourth recession in 12 years.

One new infection in France linked to Italy

Three new cases of the virus were announced in France on Wednesday.

One was a 36-year-old man who had made repeated trips to the Italian region of Lombardy, but he doesn't have any severe symptoms, Salomon said.

The other is a Frenchman in the northern city of Amiens who is in intensive care, and an investigation is underway into where and how he contracted the virus, Salamon said.

The third is a 60-year-old Frenchman who has died of the new virus in a Paris hospital, the second virus-related death in France since it emerged in China late last year.

The head of France's national health service, Jerome Salomon, made the announcement on Wednesday but didn't say where the man contracted the virus or provide other details.

France is stepping up restrictions on people who have travelled from neighbouring Italy after a new outbreak of the virus there.

France has reported 17 cases of the virus, including two deaths. The first death was an 80-year-old tourist from China.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies