Closed exercise equipment is seen at the "Biblioteca deli Alberi" public park, amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Milan. Picture: Daniele Mascolo/Reuters
Closed exercise equipment is seen at the "Biblioteca deli Alberi" public park, amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Milan. Picture: Daniele Mascolo/Reuters

Italy closes all parks, bans jogging as coronavirus deaths climb by 627 in a single day

By Crispian Balmer And Gavin Jones Time of article published Mar 21, 2020

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Rome - Italy imposed further draconian

restrictions on public life on Friday in an increasingly

desperate effort to halt coronavirus infections after the death

toll leapt by 627 in a single day, by far the biggest 24-hour

rise recorded anywhere.

The mayor of the most badly affected city, Bergamo in the

affluent northern region of Lombardy, said the true number of

fatalities from the pandemic in his area was four times higher

than was officially reported so far.

"Many of the elderly are dying in their houses or in old

people's homes, without anyone testing them either before or

after they die," Giorgio Gori told the Huffington Post.

He added that a dozen mayors of other cities had confirmed

the same thing to him.

Responding to requests by the governors of the worst-hit

regions, the national government in Rome said that from Saturday

all parks would be closed and people could only take exercise

around their homes.

"We have to do even more to contain the infections..Correct

behaviour from everyone is essential to win this battle," Health

Minister Roberto Speranza said after signing the latest


Authorities have become frustrated in recent days to see

people still out and about despite their appeals to stay indoors

for all but absolutely essential needs.

The latest crackdown effectively bans jogging and bicycle

rides, the only types of outdoor exercise that were allowed.

"We already have many hundreds of dead. What more is needed

before people understand the tragedy we are facing?" said

Sergio Venturi, head of the coronavirus response team in

Emilia-Romagna, another wealthy northern region hard-hit by the


The national death toll surged by 627 over the past 24 hours

to 4,032 - by far the world's largest daily rise in absolute

terms since the contagion emerged a month ago.

Italian soldiers patrol as the Duomo gothic cathedral is visible in background, in Milan. Picture: Luca Bruno/AP


Italy overtook China on Thursday as the country to register

the most deaths from the respiratory disease. Before Friday, it

had never recorded more than 475 fatalities in a single day.

The total number of cases climbed to 47,021 from a previous

41,035, the Civil Protection Agency said.

"Maybe the peak won't come next week, but the week after,"

the agency's chief, Angelo Borrelli, told Rai radio.

Lombardy, at the epicentre of the epidemic, said that about

100 soldiers would soon be deployed to help local police enforce

the lockdown, and called on the national government to impose

new measures to make sure Italians stay at home.

Officials are especially worried by the situation in Milan,

Lombardy's capital and Italy's second city.

The country's largest cities had so far been relatively

lightly hit by the outbreak, but there are now 3,804 people

infected in Milan, its financial hub, and the surrounding


The number of new cases in and around Milan rose by 526, or

16%, the largest daily increase for any region within Lombardy.

"The front line is now in Milan," Massimo Galli, head of the

infectious diseases unit at the city's Sacco hospital, told La

Repubblica newspaper. "I am extremely worried by what is

happening...There are still too many people out and about."

The Rome government last week ordered restaurants, bars and

most shops to shut down nationwide until March 25. In addition,

it shut schools and universities and told everyone to stay at

home for all but crucial reasons until April 3.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Thursday the measures

would have to be extended in scope and duration but gave no

further details.

Looking to boost morale, all Italian radio stations, for the

first time, simultaneously broadcast the national anthem at 11

a.m. (1000 GMT), followed by three iconic songs, "Azzurro," "La

canzone del sole" and "Nel blu dipinto di blu".

However, the national mood has grown gloomier this week as

the death toll has risen inexorably.

"It feels like we are in another world. I don't know, it is

a really bad feeling. I hope it will finish soon because really,

this is not good," said Rome resident Anna Marcotullio, 53.


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