VENICE (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) - Venice ended its carnival early and Fashion Week in Milan restricted public access after Italian authorities cancelled all public events in both cities to contain a surge of coronavirus infections.
The two iconic events, which drew hundreds of thousands of visitors to the northern Italian cities, were disrupted on Sunday (Feb 23) by an outbreak of the virus in surrounding regions.
The sudden spread since a man sought treatment on Feb 18 has left Italy with more than 130 cases, the most in Europe.
As virus fears spread in Europe, Austria temporarily halted trains from Italy at the Brenner Pass in the Alps. The ban was lifted shortly before midnight Sunday, Austria's state railroad said on Twitter.
The two-week Venice Carnival had been due to end on Tuesday. Dozens of public events were scheduled, including walking tours, opera performances, party cruises and parades. All public events in the region were halted for at least a week.
In Milan, Giorgio Armani decided to unveil his new women's collection on Sunday behind closed doors and offered a livestream instead "to support national efforts to safeguard public health".
Luisa Spagnoli's show also went behind closed doors.
Italian authorities imposed a lockdown on Saturday and banned travel to and from an area of about 50,000 people near Milan. Authorities applied new restrictions in the two cities after cases surged overnight in the regions of Lombardy and Veneto, with two infections confirmed in the city of Venice.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Saturday announced the travel ban and other emergency steps after the jump in cases linked to a hospital in the town of Codogno in Lombardy, where Milan is located. A man who sought treatment there last week is believed to have infected dozens of patients and medical staff who then carried the virus further afield.
Conte said Italy won't seek a suspension of the Schengen agreement, which has eliminated border controls among 26 European countries. Even so, the surge in the virus illustrates the potential threat to borderless travel and commerce in Europe - a hallmark of the continent that last came under pressure during the refugee crisis in 2015-16.
Italy asked other major economies to "work immediately on economic measures at an international level that are coordinated and sufficient to deal with the economic consequences of the virus in a timely and effective way in case the crisis worsens," Finance Minister Roberto Gualtieri said on the sidelines of a Group of 20 meeting in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan imposed travel and immigration restrictions on Iran, which has seen 12 deaths and 61 infections. Afghanistan reported its first case on Monday, in the western border province of Herat, again involving someone who had recently been in Iran, officials said.
Iraq also reported its first case on Monday.