Italy in coronavirus lockdown as deaths soar and economy fades
“Our civic duty is the only thing that can save us,” said Marzio Tonilo
ROME, 11 March 2020 (Reuters) : Shops and restaurants closed, hundreds of flights were canceled and streets emptied across Italy on Tuesday, the first day of an unprecedented, nationwide lockdown imposed to slow Europe’s worst outbreak of coronavirus.
Just hours after the dramatic new restrictions came into force, health authorities announced the death toll had jumped by 168 to 631, the largest rise in absolute numbers since the contagion came to light on Feb. 21.
The total number of confirmed cases rose at a much slower rate than recently seen, hitting 10,149 against a previous 9,172, but officials warned that the region at the epicenter, Lombardy, had provided incomplete data.
The government has told all Italians to stay at home and avoid non-essential travel until April 3, radically widening steps already taken in much of the wealthy north, which is the epicenter of the spreading contagion.
“Our civic duty is the only thing that can save us,” said Marzio Tonilo, 35, a teacher from the northern town of San Fiorano, which was placed under quarantine last month.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte unexpectedly expanded the so-called red zone to the entire country on Monday night, introducing the most severe controls on a Western nation since World War Two.
The move shocked many small businesses, which feared for their future.
“It looks like an apocalypse has struck, there is no one around,” said Mario Monfreda, who runs Larys restaurant in a smart Rome residential area. Under the government order, all bars and restaurants will now have to close at 6.00 p.m.
“It is a total disaster. This will reduce us to nothing . More people are going to die as a result of the economic crisis that this lockdown is going to cause than the virus itself.”
“I would shut down all the shops. I would certainly close down public transport and I would seek out all businesses that could be shut without creating excessive damage to the economy,” said Lombardy Governor Attilio Fontana.
While Lombardy accounts for 74% of all the fatalities, the disease has now touched all of the country and the government is worried that if it worsens, the health system in the less developed south will collapse, causing deaths to spike.
However, the prosperous northern region of Lombardy, centered on Italy’s financial capital Milan, called on the government to introduce even more stringent measures.