A 62-year-old man on dialysis died on Monday evening, while three other men, all in their 80s, also died from the infection at the start of the week. Meanwhile, supermarket shelves have been stripped bare due to panic-buying amid rising tensions and visible public anxiety, as evidenced by a brawl in the aisles.

At least 11 towns, 10 in Lombardy and one in Veneto, are on lockdown, affecting some 50,000 people who will be quarantined for 15 days. Video taken in towns in northern Italy paints a ghostly picture as streets are mostly deserted of signs of life amid festival cancellations and an end to public social events for the foreseeable future.

Some 229 cases of coronavirus infection had been confirmed in Italy, the third-highest number in the world, behind China and South Korea. 

On Tuesday, Italian authorities will host a meeting of health ministers from Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Slovenia and Switzerland in Rome to discuss the outbreak and the next steps to take.

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