Italy’s prime minister announced a sweeping coronavirus quarantine early Sunday, restricting 16 million people’s movements which is about a quarter of the country’s population in a bid to limit contagions at the epicenter of Europe’s outbreak.
Shortly after midnight, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signed a decree affecting about 16 million people in the country’s prosperous north, including the Lombardy region and at least 15 provinces in neighboring regions. The extraordinary measures will be in place until April 3.
“For Lombardy and for the other northern provinces that I have listed, there will be a ban for everybody to move in and out of these territories and also within the same territory,” Conte said. “Exceptions will be allowed only for proven professional needs, exceptional cases and health issues.”
“We want to guarantee the health of our citizens. We understand that these measures will impose sacrifices, sometimes small and sometimes very big.”
“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 virus has now spread to all 22 Italian regions and the first deaths are being recorded in Italy’s less well medically equipped south.
Italy reported its biggest daily increase in coronavirus cases since its outbreak last month. The number of infected people rose to 1,247, taking their total to 5,883 with the death toll rising to 233.
The World Health Organization (WHO) urged Italy on Friday to keep “a strong focus on containment measures.”