For the first time ever, Italy declared a six-month state of emergency, after officials confirmed a Chinese couple was infected with the coronavirus as they traveled through the country this week, according to The New York Times.
With the major decision announced, the government will now be able to cut through red tape to contain the disease, if it does spread.
The emergency won’t have any immediate impact on citizens’ day-to-day lives; however, travel will be disrupted now that the Italian government has banned all flights to and from China.
The two tourists, a 67-year-old woman and a 66-year-old man, arrived from Wuhan–where the virus originated–and became feverish during their trip through Italy.
They are now being treated in an isolation unit at the city’s Spallanzani Hospital in Rome, which specializes in infectious diseases and viruses.
The couple is in stable condition, and 12 other Chinese nationals have been placed in observation.
The couple first traveled to Milan, then joined a bus tour with more than 100 other Chinese tourists. The tour group traveled to Verona, Parma and Rome, according to The Daily Mail.
Twenty people who came in direct contact with the couple were also placed under observation, but have showed no sign of illness.
Cruise ship lockdown
The news comes just two days after an Italian cruise ship was placed on lockdown, after officials learned that a separate Chinese couple may be infected. More than 7,000 passengers and crew were held aboard the ship in an Italian port for several hours on Thursday, but they were eventually released after the couple tested negative for the disease.
The spread of coronavirus
There are now over 12,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in China, and more than 130 cases have been reported in two dozen countries and regions.
The disease has killed more than 250 people in China.
The Centers for Disease Control estimate that symptoms can appear anywhere from two to 14 days after transmission.
The coronavirus, a pneumonia-causing illness that infects the respiratory tract, is less deadly than SARS, according to MarketWatch.
However, the disease is highly contagious–a fact that has rattled countries across the globe.
For up-to-the-minute coronavirus updates, visit this live New York Times article.