Explained: Why Italy has imposed a nationwide lockdown

Om Marathe
coronavirus, coronavirus latest updates, italy, coronavirus italy, italy news, coronavirus symptoms

Jewelry shops along the historic Ponte Vecchio old bridge are closed after Italy entered its first day under a nationwide lockdown. (AP)

On Monday evening, Italy imposed nationwide travel restrictions and a ban on public gatherings, becoming the first European country to do so to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

With the death toll in Italy climbing to 463, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has promised a "massive shock therapy" to help deal with the immediate economic impact of the crisis.

“The future of Italy is in our hands. We all do our part, giving up something for the good of the community. At stake is the health of our loved ones, our parents, our children, our grandparents,” Conte said in a tweet.

So far, 9,172 people have been infected by the virus in Italy, with 1,598 fresh cases reported on Tuesday.

What is happening in Italy

Italy has enacted measures to clamp down movement and close public spaces. Quarantine measures that were already implemented in the northern Lombardy region, the country's richest, as well as in parts of neighbouring provinces, have now been expanded to the whole country.

People have been told to travel only for work, health emergencies or else stay at home at least for the next three weeks. Under the clampdown, anyone wanting to travel will have to ask for permission by declaring their reasons and carry the document with them. Italians wanting to leave the country will also have to follow a similar procedure. Foreigners, however, could still come to Italy, Conte said.

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Until April 3, schools and universities will remain closed. Outdoor events, sports, and large gatherings have been banned. Bars and restaurants need to close from 6 pm. For shops to remain open, customers need to maintain a minimum distance of a metre between them. Referring to young people, Conte said, “this nightlife ... we can't allow this anymore.”

After the restrictions were announced, late-night supermarkets in Rome saw a rush of shoppers to stock up on food and basic necessities, Reuters reported.

Riots began at 27 prisons in the country after decrees banned jail visits and day-release programs for inmates. Six inmates died during the protests, reports said.

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Conte has described the novel coronavirus outbreak as an existential threat to the country’s elderly population and the country’s healthcare system.