Italian president urges "harmony, unity of purpose" in facing coronavirus emergency
ROME - President Sergio Mattarella has urged Italians to trust the country's capacity to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, and to face the emergency with "harmony and unity of purpose."
"With no imprudence but also with no alarmism, we can and we should have confidence in the abilities and resources we have at our disposal," Mattarella said in a video message published on the presidential website, and later broadcast by national TV networks.
Mattarella stressed Italy was a large and modern state with "an excellent public health system, which is operating with efficiency and with the generous self-sacrifice of its staff at all professional levels."
"The hidden danger of a new virus that hits many countries around the world is causing concern," Mattarella said.
"This is understandable and requires a sense of responsibility from everybody, but we must absolutely avoid an unmotivated and often counterproductive state of anxiety."
He reassured the country would be able to overcome the current situation, urging at the same time Italians to scrupulously abide by all rules imposed or recommended by government and health authorities to contain the epidemic.
"These are simple but important (rules) to avoid the risk of spreading the infection, and I would like to invite everyone to carefully observe such indications, even if they may cause a temporary change in some daily habits," Mattarella said.
"The moment we are living through requires engagement, sharing, harmony, and unity of purpose in the task of defeating the virus."
Up to Thursday, Italy confirmed 3,296 cases of coronavirus infections and 414 recoveries. The death toll stood at 148, which brought the total number of assessed cases in the country to 3,858, according to the Civil Protection Department coordinating the emergency task force.
On Wednesday evening, the cabinet passed new containment rules, including the closure of all schools and universities across the country until March 15 at least.
Among these rules, it was also imposed to suspend all cultural events -- unless a safety distance of one meter between people can be guaranteed -- and to hold all sporting events behind closed doors until April 3.