MILAN — As the coronavirus continues to make headlines globally, on Friday the health crisis got even bigger attention in Italy as six new cases were identified in Codogno, a town a one-hour drive from Milan.
A 38-year-old man and his pregnant wife are the most worrying cases, with the former currently hospitalized in intensive care. The man is an employee at the Unilever facility located in the nearby town of Casalpusterlengo, where he is reported as working in the research and development department.
According to media reports, at the moment 60 employees operating in the same department are isolated in the facility for safety reasons and waiting to get tested before being released. In particular, one woman has already been hospitalized and kept in isolation while the overall Unilever complex shut down its activity for the day, including the canteen as it’s one of the common spaces and accommodates more than 300 employees.
Unilever was not reachable for a comment at press time.
Meanwhile, investigations are trying to retrace all the movements of the infected man over the past two weeks. On Friday morning, many papers reported that he was infected during a dinner with a colleague who had returned from a trip to China, but tests on the second man eventually turned out to be negative.
The Unilever employee first reached the E.R. on Feb. 16 with high fever and symptoms of pneumonia but he was dismissed with an antibiotics prescription. He then returned on Thursday night because of severe respiratory difficulties, but throughout all week he was regularly showing up at work.
In particular, the man is into sports and with an active social life, which caused 150 close contacts to be enlisted for swab tests. A soccer mate has been also found positive to coronavirus, as well as three other patients diagnosed with pneumonia and living in nearby areas.
“The patients positive to coronavirus are women and men, all aged around 40,” said Giulio Gallera, the council member for welfare in Italy’s Lombardy region. “As for now, the only element we know that they have in common is that they all live in the same area. We have to check with their families and understand if there’s a connection among them.”
Gallera invited citizens residing in Codogno, Casalpusterlengo and in Castiglione d’Adda — where the Unilever employee is originally from — to remain at home as a precaution and avoid social interactions. Overall, the three towns are inhabited by about 35,500 people.
Meanwhile in the town of Codogno public places and communal offices will remain closed until Sunday, while schools and shops will remain closed tomorrow in Casalpusterlengo.