Italy has taken an unprecedented move amid the growing coronavirus crisis and introduced lockdown measures across the whole country.
In a country of 60 million people, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said there won’t just be a “red zone”, referring to the quarantine order he signed for a vast swath of northern Italy with a population of 16 million over the weekend.
“There will be Italy” as a protected area, he said.
World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed Italy’s tough measures, noting that just four countries – China, South Korea, Italy and Iran – accounted for 93 per cent of cases worldwide.
“Now that the virus has a foothold in so many countries, the threat of a pandemic has become very real,” he told a news conference.
Mr Conte ordered people should stay at home unless they have solid reasons related to work, health or other special needs.
“Our habits must change, must change now, we must all give up something for the good of Italy,” Mr Conte said.
Commuting to work will still be allowed but school and university closures have been extended until April 3.
The measures will come into effect on Tuesday morning local time.
The government also adopted a decree to stop all sporting activities, including Serie A football matches.
There have been 9172 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Italy and 463 people have died.
Italy registered 1807 more confirmed cases as of Monday evening.
With those numbers, Italy again overtook South Korea as the country with the most cases outside China.
The premier also took to task young people in much of Italy who have been gathering at night to drink and have a good time during the public health emergency that started on February 21.
“This night life…we can’t allow this anymore,” Mr Conte said.
Under the weekend decree that applied to regions in the north, pubs, restaurants and cafes are now required to close at dusk. The mandatory early hours will affect all of a locked-down Italy.
Two days ago, for the first time Pope Francis, 83, delivered Sunday prayers via livestream by Vatican News and on screens in Saint Peter’s Square, breaking centuries of tradition by enlisting the help of technology.
The streets of Rome and several northern cities in the worst-hit areas were already visibly empty due to stringent isolation measures.
“The prayer will be broadcast via livestream by Vatican News and on screens in Saint Peter’s Square,” the Vatican said in a statement.
Italian authorities said seven prisoners died as riots spread through more than 25 jails across the country over measures imposed to contain the coronavirus.
Police and fire trucks massed outside the main prison in the northern town of Modena, the site of some of the worst violence.