Italy Sunday reported a 50% jump in the number of new coronavirus cases in just one day with 11 villages and towns in the north sealed off.
With nearly 1,700 confirmed cases and 34 deaths, Italy is the hardest-hit European country.
Italian authorities say they expect the number of cases to rise, pointing out that the virus has a 14-day incubation period and because of the time it takes to enforce containment measures. Italy also has a large elderly population. Health experts say people 65 years and older are among the most susceptible to viruses.
U.S. authorities have warned Americans against traveling to northern Italy and two major airlines, Delta and American Airlines, have suspended flights to Milan, the Italian financial capital.
These moves along with canceled events are almost certain to have a devastating impact on the tourist industry and business in general.
Also Sunday, Paris’ Louvre, the world’s most popular art museum, closed its doors to disappointed visitors after its unionized staff refused to work because of coronavirus fears.
The French government has banned gatherings of 5,000 people or more, which is the number of daily visitors the Louvre reportedly attracts.
Also Sunday, Australia and Thailand reported their first coronavirus deaths. They include a 78-year-old Australian man who was on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined off Japan.
A 35-year-old Thai salesman who had contact with foreign customers has also died.
In the United States, Vice President Mike Pence, who is heading up the official coronavirus fight, told NBC’s Meet the PressSunday morning that there will be more U.S. cases, but said “it’s all hands on deck to do everything possible to prevent the spread of this disease.”
“We could have more sad news,” Pence said, “but the American people should know that the risk for the average American remains low.”
As of late Sunday, there were 74 coronavirus cases in the U.S. and one death.
Pence has strongly defended the administration’s efforts to contain the disease against criticism from the Democratic presidential candidates. Pence said President Donald Trump’s early closure of the borders to foreign nationals coming from China has prevented a much larger outbreak.
Former Vice President Joe Biden pointed out on ABC’s This Week that Trump cut funding for two key government health agencies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.
“You have this president not allowing the scientists to speak,” Biden said. “This is incompetence on the part of the president at the expense of the country.”
Senator Bernie Sanders said Trump taking time to campaign in South Carolina, where there wasn’t a Republican on Saturday’s primary ballot, was “pathetic.”
Trump said Saturday that while additional coronavirus cases in the United States were “likely, there is no reason to panic at all.”
The White House has tightened travel restrictions to Iran to include any foreign national who has visited the country in the last 14 days. Along with Italy, a highest level travel advisory has been put in place for South Korea, — the country hit hardest by coronavirus outside of China, where the outbreak began in December.
South Korea is reporting more than 3,700 cases while Iran has the largest coronavirus death toll outside China: 54.