Inmates killed, guards taken hostage in prison unrest across Italy
At least six inmates killed, two guards taken hostage, severe damage from fires
ROME: Six inmates were killed in a prison riot in Italy and guards were taken hostage at another as unrest spread in prisons across the country over measures to contain the coronavirus, including restrictions on visits.
Italy's government has imposed a virtual lockdown across much of its wealthy northern regions at the epicentre of the contagion, in an effort to contain the virus that as of Sunday had killed 366 people and infected more than 7,300 in the country.
The government decided to ring-fence more than 15 million people who live in the industrial heartland of Lombardy and surrounding areas until April 3.
In a TV interview, the head of Italy's prison administration Francesco Basentini said three inmates had died inside a jail in the northern town of Modena, and three others had died after being transferred away.
"There have been a series of rebellions across the country," Mr Basentini said.
The Justice Ministry said fires had been set at a number of prisons causing severe damage.
Prison guards union Sappe said two guards had been taken hostage in the northern city of Pavia and were released after a police raid.
On Sunday, the government imposed limits on direct contact between inmates and families. Prisoners will be allowed to contact visitors by phone or other remote methods under the measures, in place until March 22.
In France, which has 1,100 recorded cases and 19 deaths so far, the chief executive of the company that runs Paris' two main international airports, Charles de Gaulle and Orly, has tested positive for the virus.
Groupe ADP yesterday said Mr Augustin de Romanet tested positive on Saturday.
It said his "state of health is not a cause for concern and does not prevent him from carrying out his functions". His contacts are being investigated while he stays at home for the next two weeks in self-isolation.
In the US, the number of confirmed cases soared past 500 Sunday.
The virus has reached some 30 US states, with Oregon the latest to declare an emergency, and 60 million people in California and New York are under crisis measures. Two more deaths were reported in Washington state, bringing the nationwide toll to at least 21.
In an early morning tweet, US President Donald Trump, who has been accused of peddling misinformation on the outbreak, blamed the media for trying to make his government "look bad".
A Johns Hopkins tally put the number of confirmed US cases at 537 by Sunday afternoon, with newly diagnosed patients in states including Pennsylvania, Illinois, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey. - REUTERS, AFP