Italy Locks Down Entire Country Amid Coronavirus Crisis, Imposing Restrictions on 60 Million People

St Peter’s Square before and after Italy’s nationwide coronavirus lockdown

Italian premier Giuseppe Conte says: ‘There is no more time – our future is in our hands’

More than 60 million people in Italy have been placed under lockdown after the government extended emergency measures across the entire country in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, announced the drastic measures at a press conference late on Monday, during which he told people to “stay at home” and banned all public gatherings.

“There is no more time. I will take responsibility for these measures. Our future is in our hands,” he told reporters.

Italy is struggling to contain Europe’s worst outbreak of Covid-19, which has claimed 463 lives and infected 9,172 people.

Conte announced that restrictions on travel and public gatherings initially imposed on northern regions on Sunday had been extended to cover the entire country.

“I am going to sign a decree that can be summarised as follows: I stay at home,” he said. “The whole of Italy will become a protected zone.”

The far-reaching measure came amid upheaval in global markets and signs of improvement in mainland China:

  • Markets rallied after Donald Trump proposed “huge” economic measures. On Monday, the US and UK stock markets suffered their worst daily slump since the 2008 financial crisis. Asia markets rallied slightly after Trump said his administration would ask Congress to pass payroll tax relief and other quick measures.
  • Chinese president Xi Jinping visited Wuhan for the first time since the outbreak began, a sign the leadership believes the country has reaching a turning point. Mainland China reported no new locally transmitted coronavirus cases outside Hubei province for the third straight day.
  • The first of the 3,500 people aboard the Grand Princess began disembarking after Oakland in California was chosen as the receiving port. The ship has 21 known cases, but only 46 tests have been carried out.
  • The global death toll passed 4,000, and infections are now at over 113,000. The World Health Organisation said the threat of a pandemic is “very real” but stressed the virus could still be controlled.
  • Australia’s Qantas airline cut its international flying capacity by a quarter, grounding eight Airbus A380s and leaving just two of the largest planes in its fleet flying.

In Italy under the decree, all public events will be banned, cinemas, theatres, gyms, discos and pubs closed, and funerals, weddings and sporting events cancelled – including Serie A matches. All schools and universities will remain closed until 3 April.

The number of deaths from coronavirus in Italy rose from 366 to 463 on Monday, according to the head of the civil protection agency. The total number of cases in Italy rose by 24% to 9,172, and of those originally infected, 724 had fully recovered. A total of 733 people were in intensive care against a previous total of 650.

“The figures show we are experiencing a serious increase in infections, an increase in people hospitalised in intensive care – and an increase, unfortunately, in deaths. We need to change our lifestyle. We need to change it now. That’s why I have decided to adopt these hard measures,” said Conte.

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SOURCE: The Guardian –  in Palermo