Italy Imposes China-style Quarantine on 16m People In Attempt to Contain Coronavirus

TOPSHOT - A man wearing a protective mask passes by the Coliseum in Rome on March 7, 2020

Italy has shut down the entire region of Lombardy and an additional 14 northern and central provinces, quarantining a quarter of the nation’s population, as the country faces the worst outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus in Europe.

Over 16 million people, including those in Milan and Venice, will be banned from travelling, barring those with special permission, under the government’s strict quarantine measures.

Public spaces such as schools, nightclubs, museums, gyms, ski resorts, and swimming pools will all be closed until at least April 3rd.

Large events such as weddings, funerals, and cultural and religious events will also be banned during the quarantine, according to to the BBC.

Restaurants and cafes will be permitted to be open between six in the morning and six in the evening, but customers will be forced to sit at least one meter (3 feet) apart from each other.

Those who break the quarantine restrictions will face up to three months in prison.

Announcing the measures early Sunday morning, the Prime Minister of Italy, Guiseppe Conte, said: “We want to guarantee the health of our citizens. We understand that these measures will impose sacrifices, sometimes small and sometimes very big.”

“But this is a time where we must take responsibility for ourselves,” he added.

The quarantine measures enacted in Italy are the most extreme outside of China, where the virus originated. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sealed off the entire province of Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak, quarantining an estimated 56 million people.

Italy has faced the largest outbreak of the virus in Europe, with the number of infected increasing by over 1,200 on Saturday alone, bringing the total to 5,883.

The death toll in Italy is also the largest outside of China, reaching 233, with 36 more people dying from the virus in a 24-hour span.

Luca Zaia, the president of the Veneto region, which is home to Venice, criticised the government’s drastic measures and the imposition of a “red zone”.

“I’m against curfew. What they are doing internationally — describing us as the new Wuhan, is rather scandalous. We have been the most careful in diagnosing,” Zaia said in comments reported by the Financial Times.

The move to introduce widespread quarantines follows the revelation on Saturday that the leader of Italy’s Democratic Party and governor of Lazio, Nicola Zingaretti, has contracted the coronavirus — the first major Western politician to be struck with the disease.

Zingaretti announced on social media that he is “fine” and told his supporters not to “panic”.

“I will set a good example by following the recommendations of the doctors, and I will fight [the coronavirus], as it is the right thing to do for the country at this moment,” he said.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka


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