Coronavirus: Italy to extend nationwide lockdown, PM says

‘Restrictive measures work,’ Giuseppe Conte says

Zoe Tidman
Thursday 19 March 2020 09:12
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Coronavirus: Who should stay home and for how long?

Italy‘s nationwide lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic is expected to go on for longer than planned, according to the prime minister.

Giuseppe Conte told an Italian newspaper it looked likely that the set end date, 3 April, would be pushed back.

“At the moment it is not sensible to say anything else,” he told Il Corriere della Sera, “but it is obvious the measures we have taken – whether that be shutting down much of the country’s individual and business activities, or our actions regarding schools – can only be extended.”

Italy has been in lockdown since 10 March as authorities work to combat the spread of Covid-19 in the second worst-hit country in the world after China, where the virus originated.

“We have avoided the collapse of the system,” Mr Conte said. ”Restrictive measures work.”

Under current measures, Italy’s 60 million people are only allowed to travel for work, medical reasons or emergencies under an order that runs until 3 April.

Meanwhile most shops, except those selling food and pharmacies, have to told to remain shut until 25 March.

However, both deadlines could be pushed back as the country continues to battle its Covid-19 outbreak, Mr Conte has suggested.

More than 35,700 people have been infected with coronavirus – a flu-like disease that can develop into pneumonia – in Italy, according to figures on Thursday.

Nearly 3,000 people diagnosed with Covid-19 have died in the country to date, while around 4,000 have recovered.

The PM said told the newspaper he hoped infection rates would start to go down in the next couple of days, but warned Italy “could not go back to how life was before straight away”.

Other countries in Europe have joined Italy is taking strict measures against the pandemic, with France and Spain going into lockdown, and the EU mostly closing its borders.

The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, has urged people in Britain – where the total number of known infections stood at more than 2,600 on Thursday – to avoid all unnecessary travel, social venues such as pubs, clubs and theatres, and to work from home if possible.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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