A western European nation has ordered the general public to stay off the streets unless they have prior approval to help contain a deadly Asian virus.
Italy’s government is banning unauthorized travel and outdoor gatherings across the country in response to the rapidly growing number of people infected by the Chinese coronavirus (COVID-19).
“The whole of Italy will become a protected zone,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on national television according to the British Broadcasting Corporation. “We are having an important growth in infection … and of deaths.”
The number of residents who died from the disease in Italy increased by 26.5 percent to 463 on March 8 alone. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases also increased by 24 percent to 9,172. So far at least 724 people have recovered according to Worldometer.
With COVID-19 cases confirmed in all 20 regions of the country, time is running out according to the prime minister. He believes the general population should quickly self-quarantine to prevent the frail and elderly from contracting the disease because they have the highest mortality of all.
“There is no more time,” he said. “We all must give something up for the good of Italy. We have to do it now. This is why I decided to adopt even more strong and severe measures to contain the advance … and protect the health of all citizens.”
ABC News revealed the measure, which takes effect on March 11, will impact the entire population of 60 million.
The only exception to the travel ban will be those people who must move as part of their usual work. All major gatherings in public spaces will remain prohibited. Both public and private schools will continue to be closed until at least April 3 according to ABC News.
A number of commercial airlines have decided to postpone flights to Italy, including Delta Airlines which revealed it would stop services between Atlanta and the Italian capital of Rome starting on March 11. Delta’s flight suspension will last until at least April 30.
Any affected passengers are encouraged to contact the Delta customer service team and amendments will be offered free of charge for both international and connecting domestic airfares scheduled for between March 11 and April 30.
President Donald Trump does not expect to enforce a similar lockdown if COVID-19 reaches epidemic levels.
“So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common flu,” he said on Twitter. “It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year, nothing is shut down, life and the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of coronavirus with 22 deaths, think about that.”