Italians woke up to a nationwide quarantine Tuesday as the country extended sweeping controls on movement in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The new regulations will impact daily life for the entire population of 60 million after initial efforts to isolate the virus in the north of the country proved ineffective. Italy currently has the most cases of coronavirus outside of China, where the outbreak began. With 1,500 new cases reported on Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed illnesses to nearly 10,000, and deaths due to the virus also continuing to rise, approaching 500, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced more drastic efforts to curtail the coronavirus in a prime-time news conference Monday evening.
“We have to avoid moving around other than for emergencies or essential work reasons within designated areas,” Conte said. “Our habits must change now. We all must give up something for the sake of Italy. … We have adopted a new decision based on the assumption that there is no more time.” Under the new restrictions, Italians have been instructed to stay at home other than in extraordinary cases for work or health reasons. Italians are no longer allowed to move freely and need special permission to travel within the country or abroad. “Under the new rules Italians will be able to travel to work and shop for food, and leave their houses for medical treatment, meaning businesses will be able to stay open,” the Financial Times reports. “All citizens will have to sign a self-declared document to present to the police and the military to explain their movements. Anyone who is judged to be breaking the measures faces fines or imprisonment for three months.”
Over the weekend, the Italian government imposed restrictions in Lombardy and across the north of the country, where the impact of the outbreak had been greatest, but extended the quarantine conditions after the number of confirmed cases surged. The containment measures include the shuttering of schools and universities nationwide until April 3, as well as the postponement of sporting events, particularly Italy’s Serie A soccer league, which was already playing matches in empty stadiums without spectators. “To encourage people to stay in, bars and restaurants are only allowed to open between 6am and 6pm, and only if it is possible to keep a distance of at least a metre between customers,” Agence France-Presse reports. “All museums and cultural venues are closed, as well as nightclubs, cinemas, theatres and casinos, which have been shut since the weekend.”