Millions of people in Italy have been placed on lockdown in an attempt to stop the spread of the new coronavirus amid the global outbreak of COVID-19.
Under the restrictions signed into law by Italy’s prime minister in the early hours of Sunday morning, people will not be able to enter or leave 15 central and northern provinces until April 3, Reuters reported. Lombardy and its capital Milan—the nation’s financial center—were included, as well as the popular tourist destination of Venice, and the cities of Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia and Rimini. Some 16 million people will be affected, and those who flout the rules could face three months in jail.
Facilities and institutions including museums, gyms, ski resorts, swimming pools, and cultural centers will be shut in these areas. According to the BBC, weddings and funerals have also been postponed. Restaurants and cafes can stay open between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., but customers must sit at least 3 feet apart. The government has also banned healthcare workers from taking holiday for the time being.
Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told a news conference where he unveiled the measures, “There will be no movement in or out of these areas, or within them, unless for proven, work-related reasons, emergencies or health reasons.”
The announcement came after cases of COVID-19 in Italy spiked by more than 1,200 in 24 hours, and the death toll hit 233. According to a dashboard updated by Johns Hopkins University, 5,883 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Italy, and 589 of the sick have recovered.
“We are facing an emergency, a national emergency. We have to limit the spread of the virus and prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed,” the BBC reported Conte as saying.
“We want to guarantee the health of our citizens. We understand that these measures will impose sacrifices, sometimes small and sometimes very big,” he said.
Italy, the country hardest hit by COVID-19 outside of Asia and in Europe, had already stopped classes at schools and universities, excluding post-graduate courses for health professionals, until March 15. In the emerging European hotspots of France and Germany, 949 and 800 cases were confirmed and restrictions were put in place on the import and export of protective medical equipment, The New York Times reported.
Since the new coronavirus emerged from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, Hubei province, late last year almost 3,600 people have died in over 106,000 cases worldwide. Nearly 80,700 of those confirmed sick were in mainland China, with over 45,000 recovering. In its daily situation report on COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that as of 10 a.m. CET on Saturday, Colombia, the Holy See, Peru, Serbia, and Togo had in the past 24 hours reported their first COVID-19 cases.
The situation with the virus continued to improve in China on Sunday, as it reported its lowest number of new cases in a single day since January. However, the country was forced to deal with a fresh tragedy after ten people died in the city of Quanzhou after a hotel where people being monitored for COVID-19 collapsed, Reuters reported citing the Ministry of Emergency Management and state media. The incident started on Saturday evening, with 48 people taken from the area by Sunday afternoon Beijing time.
Meanwhile in the U.S., where 433 have fallen ill, a cruise ship stationed off the Californian coast is due to head to Oakland after more than a dozen people on board tested positive for COVID-19, according to its operator. More than 3,500 people are onboard the vessel from 54 countries.
Princess Cruises said on Twitter that the Grand Princess will sail to the Port of Oakland on Sunday “to begin disembarking guests who require acute medical treatment and hospitalization.” Those individuals will be taken to medical facilities in California, it said.
Other guests will leave the ship on Monday. Residents of California will be sent to a “federally operated facility” in the state to be tested for COVID-19 and isolated. Those who live elsewhere will be taken federal government workers to facilities in “other states.”
Crew members will be quarantined and treated on the ship, the operator said.
The virus also impacted the world of sport, with the organizers of Bahrain’s Formula 1 Grand Prix weekend stating spectators were no longer be allowed to attend. A total of 85 people have been confirmed sick on the island nation in the Persian Gulf.
Bahrain International Circuit said on Facebook of its even scheduled for March 20 to 22: “Given the continued spread of Covid-19 globally, convening a major sporting event, which is open to the public and allows thousands of international travelers and local fans to interact in close proximity would not be the right thing to do at the present time.”
World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
- Wash hands: after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before; during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handlings animals or waste.
- Maintain at least one meter (three feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.
- If you feel unwell (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and call local health authorities in advance.
- Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.
- Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
- Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
- Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
- Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
- Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of mask.
- Do not reuse single-use masks.