News World Coronavirus fears spark prison riots, while in Australia schools close doors
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Coronavirus fears spark prison riots, while in Australia schools close doors

Relatives of Rebibbia prison's inmates face police after inmates staged a protest against new coronavirus containment measures. Photo: AAP
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Six prisoners have been killed in one of a series of jailhouse riots across northern Italy, sparked by anger over a new coronavirus prevention tactic.

The inmates stormed the prison’s infirmary and died from an overdose of methadone at a jail in the northern town of Modena.

Another 50 inmates managed to escape their cells and two guards were taken hostage as unrest broke out in 27 Italian prisons after authorities moved to ban visitors from entering facilities in a bid to stop the virus spreading.

In Iran, authorities took an even more extraordinary step. Rather than banning visitors, there, 70,000 prisoners have been freed.

The decision came a day after Iran recorded 595 new infections and 43 deaths – making the country one of the worst places hit by the virus outside of China.

Inmates stage a protest against new rules to cope with coronavirus emergency, as they stand on the roof of the San Vittore prison in Milan. Photo: AAP

In Melbourne, meanwhile, a maximum-security unit housing some of Victoria’s worst offenders has been locked down after one inmate was suspected of having the coronavirus, the Herald Sun reported.

It said the Melbourne Assessment Prison where the inmate is housed is screening prisoners for coronavirus symptoms at entrances.

Focus on schools

In another first for Victoria during the coronavirus outbreak, staff and students at Carey Baptist Grammar School in Melbourne won’t be allowed in on Tuesday after an adult member of its community developed symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

“The health and safety of our community is our first priority,” principal Jonathan Walter wrote in an email sent to parents after deciding that it will close for the day to assess the situation.

The person had been in direct contact with someone confirmed as having the coronavirus and is being tested, Mr Walter said.

Carey Grammar is the fourth school to shut down because of the widening coronavirus crisis; the other three are in NSW.

WHO has a warning but reassures that ‘most will recover’

World Health Organisation director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned there was a “very real” threat of a coronavirus pandemic sweeping the planet as more than 100 countries grapple with its rapid spread.

COVID-19 had spread to eight new countries in the past 24 hours to Tuesday morning Australian time), including Bulgaria, Costa Rica and the Maldives.

Even if WHO declared a pandemic, “it would be the first pandemic in history that could be controlled”, Dr Ghebreyesus said.

“Of all the cases reported globally so far, 93 per cent are from just four countries.

“This is an uneven epidemic at the global level.”

According to WHO, the number of new cases reported outside of China in the previous 24 hours was roughly 80 times higher than cases reported inside China — more than 3,600 new cases.

“The bottom line is: we are not at the mercy of this virus,” Dr Ghebreyesus said, adding that most people infected with the virus will recover.

“Of the 80,000 reported cases in China, more than 70 per cent have recovered and been discharged.”

Coronavirus-stricken ship prepares to disembark

Four Australians remain trapped on board the Grand Princess cruise ship which is carrying more than 3500 people from 54 countries – 21 of them infected with the new virus.

Passengers on the Grand Princess will disembark at the port after being in a holding pattern outside the Golden Gate for several days. Photo: Getty

The captain told passengers that not everyone will be able to disembark after arriving at the Port of Oakland in the San Francisco Bay area.

US passengers will be taken to military bases in California, Texas and Georgia for testing and a 14-day quarantine.

St Patrick’s parade closure

The outbreak in Ireland forced the government to cancel all St Patrick’s Day parades. 

Ireland Prime Minister Leo Varadkar announced the cancellation on Monday and said further advice about mass public gatherings will be issued in the next few days.

The annual March 17 parade in Dublin is one of Ireland’s biggest tourist events, and typically draws half a million people onto the city’s streets.

Tens of thousands more flock to parades in Ireland’s second-largest city, Cork, and smaller communities.

-with AAP