September 22, 2020

Coronavirus: Italy imposes strict lockdown in outbreak hotspots

Italy has introduced “extraordinary measures” to tackle the spread of the biggest outbreak of the new coronavirus in Europe.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the emergency plan late on Saturday as the number of cases rose to 79.

The measures were imposed after two Italian citizens were confirmed to have died from the virus.

A dozen towns in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto have been effectively quarantined under the plan.

Around 50,000 people from towns in two northern regions have been asked to stay at home by authorities.

Mr Conte said it would now be forbidden to enter or leave the outbreak areas, unless special permission was granted.

All school and sports activities have been suspended in those areas, including several Serie A football matches due to take place on Sunday.

Police, and if necessary the armed forces, will have the authority to ensure the regulations are enforced.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte chairing an emergency meeting

Italian authorities fear the virus has gone beyond the isolated clusters of cases in Lombardy and Veneto, making it difficult to contain.

“The contagiousness of this virus is very strong and pretty virulent,” Lombardy’s health chief Giulio Gallera said.

The new coronavirus originated in the Chinese province of Hubei last year, but has spread to 26 countries, where more than 1,400 cases and 11 deaths have been confirmed.

Graph comparing outbreaks

Chinese health authorities reported a decrease in the rate of deaths and new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday. Some 76 392 cases including 2,348 deaths have been confirmed in China.

But outside China, cases with no clear link to that country or other confirmed cases continue to rise, prompting concern from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The head of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the greatest concern now was countries with weaker health systems, particularly in Africa.

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