ROME, Italy – Italy has ordered schools and universities to close nationwide through March 15 in a bid to contain the novel coronavirus, saying the prudent suspension was taken after a careful analysis of how the epidemic was spreading.
More than 2,500 cases of the virus have been confirmed in the European country and 79 deaths have been reported, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins. That’s one of the largest death tolls outside of China, where the virus is believed to have originated.
Education Minister Lucia Azzolina announced the school suspensions, which start Thursday, saying she hoped schools would be able to continue with lessons via distance learning.
Italy has seen its virus caseload explode since the first homegrown positive test was registered in northern Lombardy on Feb. 19.
Italy had earlier closed schools in the hard-hit regions of Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia Romagna.
More than 3,200 people have died from the virus worldwide, including nine people in the United States. All the U.S. deaths have been in Washington state and many patients had been residents of a Seattle area nursing home.
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