PLANS for Cop26 have been thrown into doubt due to the coronavirus lockdown in Italy, MPs have been warned.

The event, which takes place over several weeks in Glasgow, is preceded by months of diplomacy, meetings and pre-conference sessions which were scheduled to be held in Italy.

A parliamentary committee heard yesterday that the pre-conference events were essential to the “success or failure” of the event, and the likelihood of them taking place now has been thrown into doubt.

Shane Tomlinson, deputy chief executive of environmental think tank E3G, told the foreign affairs committee the coronavirus outbreak was “unprecedented” in the effect it would have on the event.

He compared it to the 2008 event, where Copenhagen hosted the conference during the financial crash and said it had an impact on the politics but not on the logistics.

He said: “A lot of the success or failure [of Cop] is what happens between now and the start of the event, not the two weeks of COP itself. If we lose two or three months now that will have a massive impact.

“This is unprecedented. At any COP there are global headwinds and tailwinds that determine outcomes. The Copenhagen Cop in 2008/9 was done in the teeth of the financial crisis. However the impact of Covid-19 in terms of physically stopping diplomats from travelling, engaging, hosting of meetings, potentially at the scale that we now look at in the worst case scenarios, is really unprecedented.”

Tomlinson said that “people shouldn’t rush into a decision on this” but added: “It’s a very fast-moving situation, but I think we should start to think about the contingency plan.”

He made the remarks after being asked by Glasgow South MSP Stewart McDonald if the success of the event in Glasgow would simply be that it took place at all.

During the foreign affairs committee hearing yesterday, SNP MP Stewart McDonald asked: “The UK is joint-hosting this with Italy, which is currently closing down. They are responsible for all the pre-Cop events that take place. ..Forget the actual virus itself, but what happens because of it…i.e. countries closing down?

“Could it be that success [of the event] is just that it happens at all? I say that as a Glasgow MP, I want it to happen.”

The discussion came as Italy extended coronavirus travel restrictions previously limited to the country’s north to the whole country yesterday, with soldiers and police enforcing bans.

Some 9,172 people have been infected with Covid-19 in Italy, with 463 deaths, and there is a growing sense that the numbers will only worsen.

“We’re only at the beginning,” said Dr Massimo Galli, head of infectious disease at Sacco Hospital in Milan, where people at the city’s main railway station were required to sign forms certifying the necessity of their travel.

However, the Italian government assured its citizens that supermarkets will remain open and stocked after panic buying erupted after the broadened anti-virus measures were announced nationwide, sparking overnight runs on 24-hour markets.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s office issued a clarifying statement after he signed the new decree late on Monday, stressing that movement outside homes for “normal necessities” such as grocery shopping will be allowed, as well as for work or health reasons.

The statement said runs on supermarkets were contrary to the intent of the new decree which aims to prevent Italians from congregating.

Meanwhile, China’s president visited the city where the coronavirus outbreak started as people across the world braced for the possibility of recession.

President Xi Jinping’s trip to Wuhan - his first since the start of the outbreak - came as parts of China return to normal, and was a sign of the diminishing threat the illness presents in the country as it spreads west.

Outbreaks have worsened in France, Spain and Germany, and fear is growing in the United States, where more than 750 people are infected and even some top political leaders were quarantined.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The World Health Organisation says people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while severe cases may last three to six weeks.

In mainland China, where the outbreak emerged in December, almost three-quarters of its more than 80,000 patients have recovered.

Nevertheless, the virus has shaken global markets, with stocks taking their worst one-day beating on Wall Street since 2008 and oil prices suffering their most brutal losses since the start of the 1991 Gulf War.

Even with Asian markets posting modest gains on Tuesday, fear was rampant that economies stood on the brink of recession.

“Right now, it’s all-out panic,” said Phil Flynn, of the Price Futures Group brokerage.

Mr Xi’s trip to Wuhan came as the country recorded just 19 new cases of the virus on Tuesday.

State media reported that he would inspect virus prevention and control efforts and visit medical workers, patients and others on the front lines of the virus fight.

The visit was also likely to be seen as an attempt to bolster views of the ruling Communist Party’s handling of the crisis.

Mr Xi was conspicuously absent from the public eye during the early days of the outbreak and the alarm was not raised until late January.

Wuhan and nearby cities have been under lockdown since then, however, in a virus-containment measure.

Ying Yong, the party secretary of Hubei province where Wuhan is located, told local officials that preparations should be made for resuming business production and the safe and orderly movement of individuals, according to a notice published on Hubei’s government website.

There are already signs that the lockdown is loosening.

Jingzhou, a city in Hubei, has ordered roads and village entrances in low-risk areas to be reopened to restore agricultural production.

The move towards normality in China and improving reports from South Korea - where new infections continue to fall - contrasted with a widening problem elsewhere in the world.