Italy announces lockdown as global coronavirus cases surpass 105,000

Monday, 09 Mar, 2020

Movement in and out of these lockdown areas will be severely restricted until at least 3 April, while movement within the quarantine zones will be limited to essential needs related to work or emergency situations.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced that the new measures would be implemented shortly.

Because of the coronavirus epidemic, the Italian government made a decision to quarantine and block entry and exit to Lombardy in the north, and another 11 provinces in other regions.

The decree said that only people with a "serious" reason that can not be postponed, such as urgent work or family issues, would be allowed in or out of the quarantine zones, which affect one-quarter of Italy's population of 60 million.

The country on Sunday recorded the second-highest coronavirus toll in the world, after reporting a sharp jump in deaths - up 133 to 366 - and overtaking South Korea on infections.

All schools and universities in the zona rossa area will remain closed until at least 3 April.

According to the decree, all museums, gyms, cultural centres, ski resorts and swimming pools will be shut in the targeted zones, while leave was cancelled for health workers as Italy's hospitals sag under the pressure of the virus. China's harsh travel restrictions came too late to prevent infected people from seeding outbreaks elsewhere, but the World Health Organization has credited the lockdown with slowing the spread of the virus and "buying the world time" to handle the outbreak.

Italy, home of the highest number of cases outside of China, South Korea and Iran, is taking its lead from China, where the virus emerged late a year ago in the provincial capital of Wuhan.

The pope, who has been ill, held his Sunday blessing by video instead of in person, even though he wasn't directly affected by the lock down.

Restaurants and bars (cafés) are permitted to stay open until 18.00 provided they allow customers to maintain a distance of one metre between each other.

First detected in Wuhan city, China in December, the disease, officially known as COVID-19, has spread to more than 80 countries.

"We are contemplating some next steps, particularly to protect our vulnerable populations, and our nursing homes and the like", Inslee said.

Numerous city's outdoor restaurants and cafes were either closed on Saturday night or had free tables overseen by forlorn staff with little to do but chat.

There have been over 106,000 cases of the virus worldwide with almost 3,600 deaths.

President Donald Trump said he would have preferred not to let the passengers disembark onto American soil, but would defer to medical experts.

The elderly are considered the most at risk of dying from the virus, along with people who have existing health conditions. Two other ships with no confirmed cases were turned away this weekend from Malaysia and Malta amid virus fears.

"Those that will need to be quarantined will be quarantined", U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence said.