In the wake of Italy’s existential rise in coronavirus cases and deaths, an unprecedented move announced by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte saw just over 16 million Italian citizens in lockdown today.
In Europe’s worst-hit country, the Prime Minister announced that free travel in the Lombardy region, as well as another 14 provinces, would be restricted to ‘emergency travel’ and that gyms, pools, museums and ski resorts would be closed.
The lockdown will last until at least 3rd April.
All large public gatherings and schools had already been suspended, as well as Italian-based soccer matches.
Prime Minister Conte added that the provinces affected were Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia, Rimini, Pesaro and Urbino, Alessandria, Asti, Novara, Verbano Cusio Ossola, Vercelli, Padua, Treviso and Venice.
There have been more than 50 deaths in the last 24 hours in Italy, with officially confirmed coronavirus cases totalling 5,883 and the total deaths at just over 230. As with most countries, these figures are updated daily.
UPDATE (as of 1330 EDT) – 7,375 cases and 366 deaths.
Prime Minister Conte said, “We want to guarantee the health of our citizens. We understand that these measures will impose sacrifices, sometimes small and sometimes very big…but this is a time where we must take responsibility for ourselves.”
Meanwhile, Italy’s healthcare system is under severe strain, to the point of collapse.
Giulio Gallera, Lombardy’s health & welfare minister said, “Every day we get 200 new people to the ER in critical condition, which each day means we have to find 200 more hospital beds…the COVID-19 is spreading at an exceptional speed, faster than our predictions and the data we got from China.”
Italian politician Nicola Zingaretti, leader of the co-governing Democratic Party has proven positive for COVID-19.
The Pope, who has cancelled all public engagements is to give Sunday prayers at the Vatican via videolink.
Contributor – Matteo Vecchione in Rome