- Italy has shut down its northern region of Lombardy and 14 neighbouring provinces to try to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
- The quarantine, which will last until April 3, comes as the European country reports 5,883 COVID-19 cases and 233 deaths.
- Schools, museums, theatres, and swimming pools across the whole country have been shut down, and violating the restrictions will be considered criminal offences.
- Italy is already staring down a recession and these stringent measures are likely to exacerbate the country’s economic woes.
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Italy, the epicentre of Europe’s coronavirus crisis, has taken the unprecedented step of locking down an entire region that is home to up to 16 million people in a bid to control the spread of the epidemic.
A draft decree seen by The Wall Street Journal said that the Italian government was imposing sweeping restrictions in the northern region of Lombardy, where Milan is the capital, and 11 neighbouring provinces, including Emilia-Romagna, Piedmont, and Veneto.
However, on Sunday, the BBC reported that up to 16 million people had been put under quarantine as the area on lockdown had spread to anyone living in Lombardy and 14 other central and northern provinces.
People in these areas should “absolutely avoid any movement into and out of the areas,” the decree says, according to The Journal.Bloomberg reported that movement within the affected area will only be permitted when it comes to “non-deferrable” business or health issues.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Sunday: “We want to guarantee the health of our citizens. We understand that these measures will impose sacrifices, sometimes small and sometimes very big.”
Speaking of the whole northern region of Lombardy, where Milan is the main city, as well as 14 provinces – Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia, Rimini, Pesaro and Urbino, Alessandria, Asti, Novara, Verbano Cusio Ossola, Vercelli, Padua, Treviso, and Venice – he added: “There will be no movement in or out of these areas, or within them, unless for proven, work-related reasons emergencies or health reasons.
“We are facing an emergency, a national emergency. We have to limit the spread of the virus and prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed.”
The move comes amid the announcement of 5,883 cases and 233 deaths in Italy. Nicola Zingaretti, the leader of the country’s Democratic party, testing positive for COVID-19.
The decision took effect on Sunday and will last through April 3.
During this lockdown, schools, museums, theatres, and swimming pools throughout the country will be shut, while weddings and funerals have been suspended.
Bars and restaurants must ensure that patrons stay at least one metre apart or they too will be forced to close.
Holiday has been cancelled for all healthcare workers.
The Journal reported that police officers and even the army will be on-hand to ensure that people are following the quarantine. Violating the decree is a crime that can result in fines or a three-month prison sentence.
With the largest number of coronavirus cases outside Asia, Italy had already taken steps including closing schools and universities from March 5 through March 15, cancelling large public events, and shutting down its world-famous tourist haunts. Nearly a dozen towns in the country’s north have also been sealed off, but the area is home to only about 50,000 people, making the most recent decision a dramatic escalation, the Journal noted.
The coronavirus outbreak is thrashing Italy’s already-teetering economy, according to the Associated Press. The tourism and luxury industries have been severely hit, and the imminent quarantine will only make matters worse because Lombardy is the most populated part of the nation, the Journal said, as well as home to its industrial hub.
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