16 million people isolated in Northern Italy because of Coronavirus spread
Italy has placed as many as 16 million people in quarantine because it is curbing the transmission of the coronavirus.
Anyone residing in the Lombardy region and the 14 other central and northern governorates requires special permission to travel. Milan and Venice are affected.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte also announced the closure of schools, gyms, museums, nightclubs and other venues across the country.
These measures are the most radical measures taken outside China and will last until April 3.
Italy has the largest number of coronavirus cases in Europe, with a sharp rise in infection rates reported last Saturday. Strict new quarantine measures affect a quarter of Italy’s population and are centered in the north of the country, powering its economy.
Italy has killed more than 230 people and officials have reported more than 36 deaths in 24 hours. On Saturday, the number of confirmed cases increased by more than 1,200 to 5,883.
The health system is under immense strain in Lombardy, a northern region of 10 million people, where people are being treated in hospital corridors according to officials.
“We want to guarantee the health of our citizens. We understand that these measures will impose sacrifices, sometimes small and sometimes very big,” Prime Minister Conte said as he announced the measures in the middle of the night.
According to the new measures, one should not be able to enter or leave the Lombardy region, where Milan is the main city.
The same restrictions apply to 14 provinces: Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia, Rimini, Pesaro and Urbino, Alessandria, Asti, Novara, Verbano, cusio Ossola, vicelli, Padua, Treviso and Venice.
“There will be no movement in or out of these areas or inside them, unless there is an emergency or health reason for reasons that prove to be work-related,” Conte told reporters.”
“We are faced with an emergency, a national emergency. We must limit the spread of the virus and prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed.”
However, transport in and out of the affected areas continued. On Sunday morning, at least seven flights from other European cities arrived at Malpensa airport in Milan.
Chris Wood, 26, from London, said he and his girlfriend had spent a short holiday in Italy and were waiting for a flight home from Venice.
“The news that Venice was initially declared blocked was terrible, but everything at the airport was very calm,” he said. “I was a little panicked because I thought we were going to stay in Venice for a month.”
Last week was critical to seeing if Italy’s coronavirus response had managed to halt the spread. If the numbers had begun to tail off, it would have suggested the containment measures had worked. They haven’t.
With cases still surging, the government has moved to the next stage – and it’s a dramatic step up. It’s not quite a complete lockdown – planes and trains are still running and access will be permitted for emergency or essential work reasons. But police will be able to stop people and ask why they’re trying to enter or leave the areas covered.
The question is whether this is all too late. It’s believed the virus was circulating in Italy for weeks before it was detected. And there have now been cases in all 22 regions of the country. The government is now taking the most extensive containment measures outside of China.
Weddings and funerals have been suspended, as well as religious and cultural events. Cinemas, night clubs, gyms, swimming pools, museums and ski resorts are closed.
Restaurants and cafes in the quarantine area can be opened between 06: 00 and 18: 00, but the customer must sit at least 1 meter (3 feet) between.
People are told to stay home as long as possible, and those who break the quarantine may face three months in jail.
The World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised Italy for making “genuine sacrifices” with the restrictions. Until now only around 50,000 people in northern Italy had been affected by quarantines.
Last week the government announced the closure of all schools and universities across the country for 10 days.
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