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The Entire Country of Italy Locked Down Over Coronavirus, PM Says

The lockdown will affect the country's population of more than 60 million after the prime minister extended the restriction to all of Italy.

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Italy’s government announced a nationwide lockdown that will go into effect Tuesday morning local time, in an effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Initially, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a press conference early Sunday that only the northern region would be placed under strict travel restrictions as the government works to minimize the COVID-19 outbreak. On Monday, he updated the restriction to the entire country. 

“We are facing an emergency,” Conte said Sunday. “A national emergency.”

The new national “I Stay Home” decree mandates that people only leave home for essential work or medical reasons. Earlier, when the lockdown was just limited to the northern region, CNN reported that people who attempt to defy the travel ban could face three months’ imprisonment and a $236 fine. It’s unclear if that now extends nationwide.

Outside of mainland China, Italy has experienced the most cases of the coronavirus. As of Monday afternoon, more than 9,100 people in Italy were infected with the virus, which has caused at least 463 deaths there. The country saw a spike of at least 1,200 new cases within 24 hours over the weekend.  

The travel restrictions were originally placed on the northern provinces that include Lombardy, Veneto, Piedmont, and Emilia-Romagna, but will now affect all 60 million-plus people living in Italy. 

The prime minister said the initial restrictions, which include school and university suspensions, temporary closures of theaters and cinemas, bars, restaurants, and sporting events, will remain in place. Religious ceremonies including funerals and weddings are also temporarily restricted. 

Conte said the “very rigorous” containment measures are necessary and could reportedly be enforced until April 3, according to an early draft of the policy described in the New York Times.

Government officials within the northern territory were caught off guard, according to the Times, and argued that implementing such restrictions on short-notice would be impossible. 

The rest of Europe has experienced an uptick of cases of COVID-19, including France, with more than 1,200, and Germany with more than 1,100. Worldwide, more than 113,500 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed, including at least 3,996 deaths. More than 62,000 of people infected have so far recovered.