As Italy's death toll from coronavirus cases reach 463, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Tuesday said the government is extending its coronavirus quarantine measures, which include a ban on public gatherings, to the entire country. Speaking at a televised press conference, Conte said people would only be permitted to travel for work or family emergencies.
The leader held that the extreme measure, which will come into effect the following day, was intended to defend the most fragile members of society — the sick and the elderly. Italy's coronavirus death toll jumped on Monday by 97 to 463. It is the worst-hit country after China and has become the virus epicentre in Europe.
"We all must give something up for the good of Italy. We have to do it now, and we'll only be able if we all collaborate and adapt to these more stringent measures... This is why I decided to adopt even more strong and severe measures to contain the advance... and protect the health of all citizens," PM Giuseppe Conte SAID.
Official figures show the number of confirmed infections increase to 9,172 from 7,375. Cases have been recorded from across Italy. The country had previously locked down several provinces in the north, including financial hub Milan and tourist hotspot Venice, affecting close to 16 million people. Conte's recent unprecedented move will affect more than 60 million people.
In the latest set of measures to combat COVID-19, schools and universities already shut down across the nation will extend their closures until April 3, alongside travel restrictions. PM Conte urged his fellow countrymen to stay at home and avoid public gatherings while stating that public transport facilities will remain operational. Meanwhile, a crackdown on restaurants and cafes, which had been told to close at dusk in the north of the country, will now be extended nationwide.
For Italians, major disruptions to their day-to-day lives now await. The economy, already one of the most fragile in the continent, is bound to bleed more as investors pull out and a government sinking in debt promises fiscal stimulus to prop up sentiment.
(With inputs from agencies)