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Entire Italy under lockdown as the government extends drastic measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak

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The entire population of over 60 million in Italy is now under lockdown as the government extends drastic measures across the nation to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced at a press conference late Monday, March 9, 2020. The country has been struggling to cope with the virus, which has killed 463 and infected 9 172 as of Tuesday, March 10.

"There is no more time. I will take responsibility for these measures," said Conte. "Our future is in our hands."

The death toll in the country solely saw a sharp rise from 366 on Monday to 463 on Tuesday, while the cases stand at 9 172, overtaking South Korea as the country with most fatalities and cases after China.

"The figures show we are experiencing a serious increase in infections, an increase in people hospitalized in intensive care – and an increase, unfortunately, in deaths. We need to change our lifestyle. We need to change it now. That’s why I have decided to adopt these hard measures," said the PM.

"I am going to sign a decree that can be summarized as follows: I stay at home," he continued. "The whole of Italy will become a protected zone."

Conte has imposed travel restrictions all over the country and banned all public gatherings, cinemas, gyms, pubs, funerals, weddings, and sporting events, including Serie A matches. Furthermore, all schools and universities remain shut until April 3.

Checkpoints on highways, train stations, airports, and toll booths are expected to be implemented on Tuesday. Moreover, under the new decree, citizens will only be able to travel for emergency purposes. Up to three months of jail time will be served for those who will break the quarantine rules.

Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a briefing late Monday that the threat of a pandemic "has become very real."

"We are not at the mercy of the coronavirus. Over the weekend we crossed 100 000 reported cases in 100 countries," Ghebreyesus said. "But it would be the first pandemic in history that could be controlled."

As of Tuesday, there are 114 549 COVID-19 cases and 4 028 fatalities worldwide.

Featured image credit: Flickr

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