ECDC statement on the rapid increase of COVID-19 cases in Italy

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23 February 2020: ECDC statement on the rapid increase of COVID-19 cases in Italy by the ECDC Director Andrea Ammon.

In the last 24 hours, the Italian Ministry of Health confirmed an increasing number of COVID-19 cases, including two deaths, clustered in two regions in Northern Italy as well as single cases in other regions in Northern Italy.

ECDC is closely monitoring this situation. We have been in contact with the Italian authorities to provide all necessary assistance at this stage and support their efforts in limiting sustained local transmission.

Given the evolving situation, ECDC is assessing the impact that the clusters in Italy have on the overall risk for the EU/EEA and will issue an updated risk assessment within the next 24 hours.

ECDC is also in close contact with the European Commission and WHO/Europe. At the same time, ECDC continues to work with all the other EU Member States, to make sure they receive the best support.

As the situation is rapidly evolving, more cases are expected in Italy, and possibly in the EU, in the coming days.

According to the Istituto Superiore di Sanita (ISS), suspected cases of COVID-19 are first tested in the reference labs of the region and province. Those that test positive are retested in the ISS, and only those validated there are reported as confirmed cases.

The Italian authorities are identifying all contacts of the confirmed cases and have announced public health measures for containment, including suspension of mass gatherings, suspension of childcare and schools, and access to essential public services conditioned to the use of personal protective equipment.

These extraordinary measures in northern Italy are essential to limit the outbreak and may need to be replicated in other communities in the coming days.

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