Italy has reported a 45 per cent one-day increase in people infected with the coronavirus as other countries in Europe record their first cases, producing evidence that travellers are carrying the virus from the European outbreak's current epicentre.
Italian officials reported 11 deaths and 322 confirmed cases of the virus on Tuesday, 100 more than a day earlier. While the majority were concentrated in northern Italy, some of the new cases registered outside the country's two hard-hit regions, including three in Sicily, two in Tuscany and one in Liguria.
An Italian couple from the afflicted north tested positive in the Canary Islands off Africa, forcing the quarantine of their hotel in what one guest said felt like being "monkeys in a cage". Austria, Croatia and Switzerland reported their first cases, all in people who recently travelled to Italy.
The four new deaths in Italy, like the seven reported earlier, were in patients who were elderly, suffering from other ailments or both, officials said.
Amid increasing cases and distribution problems with protective gear and test kits,Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte defended the measures Italy has taken to contain the outbreak and predicted a stabilising of numbers soon. But he acknowledged that the rise in cases - the most outside Asia - was "worrisome".
"Obviously I can't say I'm not worried because I don't want anyone to think we're underestimating this emergency," he said before a meeting with a visiting World Health Organisation mission. "But we trust that with the measures we've implemented there will be a containing effect in the coming days."
Italy has closed schools, museums and theatres in the two regions where clusters have formed and troops are enforcing quarantines around 10 towns in Lombardy and the epicentre of the Veneto cluster, Vo'Euganeo.
But Italy hasn't yet identified the source of the outbreak.
Angelo Borrelli, the head of the Italian civil protection department, said the increase in cases from 222 to 322, representing a 45 per cent increase, came from people who tested positive for the virus in a 24-hour period from Monday evening to Tuesday evening.
The southern island of Sicily reported its first three positive cases from a woman vacationing from Bergamo, in Lombardy and two others travelling with her. Two cases were also reported in Tuscany, south out of the epicentre.
Australian Associated Press