Italy quarantines entire country amid Covid-19 fears
ROME - Measures to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus will be extended to the entire country in the next hours, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced late on Monday.
"All movements will be restricted across the entire country, but for those justified by three specific reasons: provable work reason, emergency cases, and health needs," Conte told a televised press conference.
"There will be no more red zones and free zones ... There will be only one Italy, as entirely protected (area)," said the prime minister.
The new rules are to be included in a decree that will enter into force by Tuesday, and stay in force at least up to April 3, according to Conte.
He explained this drastic step was deemed necessary by the cabinet to protect the entire national community from the spreading of the new coronavirus across the country, which is now the most affected after China in terms of fatalities linked to COVID-19.
Conte specified limitations would include public gatherings, which will be banned both in the open air, in bars, pub, restaurants, and in all of the venues where social life usually takes place.
Such restrictions have been applied since Sunday morning to the entire Lombardy region and 14 provinces across Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, Marche, and Veneto regions.
Yet, several episodes of people leaving restricted areas in the north to join their families in southern regions took place over the weekend, and many people -- especially the younger generations -- have kept hanging out in public places.
All sporting events, including Italy's soccer Series A-League, were to be suspended on the entire national territory starting from Tuesday.
The current closure of all schools and universities will be extended up to April 3 as well, from the previous deadline of March 15.
"We understand the need of sociality of the people, and especially of the younger ones. Yet, this is the moment of responsibility for everyone ... and the best decision for citizens now is to stay at home," Conte said.
Up to Monday, the number of COVID-19 infection cases grew to 7,985, and the death toll increased by 97 cases to 463, according to the Civil Protection Department.
Some 102 new recoveries were also recorded, bringing the total number to 724.