Italy announced Wednesday it will temporarily close all its schools and universities as the country continues to grapple with a surge in coronavirus infections, according to new reports.
Those closures will begin Thursday and last until mid-March, CNBC reported.
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Italian officials also said they may set up a new quarantine area, or “red zone,” in an attempt to contain the outbreak.
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“None of us can be sure about the future evolution of the disease,” Angelo Borrelli, head of the country’s Civil Protection Agency, said at a Tuesday news conference. “This is an important week to understand what will happen.”
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Red zones have already been set up in Lombardy and Veneto, where 11 towns are quarantined and inhabitants are prohibited from leaving.
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Hospitals, particularly those in northern Italy, are struggling to carry the weight of those infected. An ambulance driver in an existing “red zone” told La Repubblica newspaper that “hours [will be] decisive” and “if the infection spreads it will be hard.”