250 people remain in quarantine in the north of the country

At least 250 people have been quarantined and are being tested for the coronavirus in northern Italy, as reported by Giulio Gallera, health commissioner of the Lombardy region, who explained that thousands have also been asked of residents of three locations that remain in their homes while authorities strive to contain the outbreak.

"We have about 250 people who were put in isolation and in tests (for the virus)," he explained in a press conference, where residents of the cities of Codogno, Castiglione d'Adda and Casalpusterlengo have been urged – with more than 35,000 citizens in total – not to leave their homes as a precaution.

These measures are taken in response to the six new cases of coronaviruses that have been detected in Codogno, a small city about 60 kilometers southeast of Milan. "It is necessary to immediately isolate the areas where the virus was developed to contain it," said Lombardy Civil Protection Commissioner Pietro Foroni.

"We must not sow panic, but we have to make people understand that the measures that have been taken are essential for the good of the community," said Lombardy President Attilio Fontana. The Minister of Health, Roberto Speranza, and the head of the National Civil Protection Agency, Angelo Borrelli, went to Lombardy this afternoon to hold a crisis meeting with local authorities.

First case, a 38 year old

A 38-year-old Italian man was the first case. He was hospitalized on Wednesday, but since he had no obvious connection with China, doctors did not immediately relate his symptoms to the coronavirus.

After his symptoms worsened and he was admitted to intensive care, his wife informed doctors that earlier this month he had spent time with a friend who had recently returned from China.

The wife, who is eight months pregnant, was one of those who tested positive for the coronavirus test, as was a man who played sports with the 38-year-old.

The man who was in China was negative, but is being hospitalized for more tests. He never had any symptoms and if he had the virus, his infection may be over, health officials said.

"Among the people who must be in quarantine are the coworkers of this 38-year-old man, his relatives and the doctors and nurses who treated him at the hospital," said Gallera.

According to the ANSA news agency, the man works at an Italian Unilever branch, while the friend who made the trip to China is a manager of MAE, an Italian producer of synthetic fibers.

The emergency room that initially treated the 38-year-old man has been closed, and authorities are also considering closing schools in the area.

The other three cases of coronavirus in Italy are a couple of elderly Chinese tourists and an Italian who tested positive after being repatriated from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak in China. All three are hospitalized in Rome.