Italian contractor Saipem has cancelled or reduced to a minimum some of its work after the novel coronavirus hit close to home, leading to a number of deaths in the country.

Saipem said on Monday that, as cases of the so-called Covid-19 virus have been confirmed in Italy, and in particular in the northern region of Lombardy where the company's offices are based, it has activated emergency protocols.

Since 21 February, all Saipem employees in the regions have been told to stay home and avoid social interactions.

As a further safety action, the company’s offices in the Milan area were sanitised over the weekend.

“The same action will be repeated daily in all Saipem workplaces,” the company said.

In addition, “all missions abroad, to and from risk areas, are cancelled and reduced to the minimum,” Saipem said.

The company added that there could be possible further limitations against travellers to and from Italy, as warned by the World Health Organization.

The company said it also activated an assessment aimed at reducing the physical presence in the office, while maintaining business continuity.

Over 50,000 people have been told to stay at home in some towns in Lombardy and Veneto.

A seventh person died on Monday afternoon in Italy as a result of the virus, and reports suggest over 200 people have been infected.