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Sales at northern Italy retailers jumped on Sunday on coronavirus fear

MILAN (Reuters) - Sales in large retailers in northern Italy rose 73% on Sunday compared with the same day a year ago as people stocked up on essentials, reacting to a rapid increase in coronavirus cases in the country, research institute Nielsen said on Friday.

On Sunday Italian authorities raced to contain the biggest outbreak of the virus in Europe, sealing off the worst hit areas in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto.

Authorities in the two regions also cancelled sports events and closed schools and universities.

Lombardy reported a 87% increase in large retailers' sales on Sunday, Nielsen data showed.

Beside shelf-stable food - including rice, pasta and pasta sauces - the most wanted items were para-pharmaceutical and personal care products.

"In our data you can read the concern about a potential quarantine," Nielsen Retailer Service Director Romolo de Camillis said in a statement.


(Reporting by Elisa Anzolin; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)