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Italy coronavirus cases surpass 100 as towns put on lockdown

Two people have already died from the so-called COVID-19 epidemic in Italy, which was the first country to ban direct flights to and from China in January.

This undated handout picture courtesy of the British Health Protection Agency shows the coronavirus seen under an electron microscope. Picture: AFP.

ROME – The number of coronavirus cases in Italy has jumped to over 100, the president of the Lombardy region said on Sunday, as northern towns struggle to contain rising infections.

"More than 100 cases" have now been reported throughout the country, Attilio Fontana told SkyTG24 television, with 89 of those in Lombardy, centred around the small town of Codogno, about 70 kilometres southeast of Milan.

Responding to a rising number of new cases, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Saturday announced that 11 towns in Italy's north would be placed under quarantine, affecting about 50,000 people.

Two people have already died from the so-called COVID-19 epidemic in Italy, which was the first country to ban direct flights to and from China in January.

First to contract the virus were two Chinese tourists who were placed under quarantine in Rome and remain there. Another man, who was also held at the same hospital in Rome, has since recovered and been released, authorities said.

The number of those infected also includes people living in four other regions of Italy.

Authorities have warned that the number of cases -- which were 79 on Saturday -- may continue to rise.

Conte has urged Italians, however, "not to give in to feelings of panic."

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