MILAN — What many dreaded has become a reality: Lombardy and 14 Italian provinces are in lockdown.
Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte issued a decree overnight Saturday that is sure to change the habits — and businesses — of almost 16 million people.
To contain the risks of contagion from coronavirus and prevent hospitals from collapsing under the demand of the increasing number of citizens with severe respiratory problems, the government is banning movements within and outside Lombardy and 14 provinces in the regions of Veneto, Emilia Romagna, Piedmont and Marche until April 3. This will surely impact the country’s economy as these regions contribute to most of Italy’s gross domestic product. Already warnings have been issued that the tourism sector alone could experience 7.4 billion euros of losses during this quarter.
As per the decree, fines will be imposed on anyone entering or leaving the quarantined area, extending the so-called “red zone,” with exceptions made for those providing serious or urgent services. All public events, including funerals and weddings, will be banned and cinemas, theaters, gyms, discos and pubs will remain closed. Malls will be closed on weekends.
The government is also extending the closure of schools until April 3 in all of Italy.
Conte has urged citizens to be responsible in this health crisis. “We will win this battle if our citizens adopt a responsible attitude and change their way of living,” echoed Angelo Borrelli, the head of Italy’s civil protection agency.
The number of coronavirus cases in Italy has jumped by more than 1,200 in a 24-hour period, according to the civil protection agency on Saturday, defining it as the biggest daily rise since the outbreak began two weeks ago.
As of Saturday, the number of infected in Italy totaled 5,061, deaths amounted to 233 and 589 have recovered. The northern regions of Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto have been the hardest hit, representing 85 percent of cases and 92 percent of deaths.
As reported, in an exceptional step, Conte announced last week that Italy plans to channel 7.5 billion euros to support the economy, the sectors and the workers more exposed to the COVID-19 crisis. This is double the amount proposed earlier in the month when the Minister of Economy Roberto Gualtieri proposed a decree for additional resources for a total of 3.6 billion euros.
Last week, Standard & Poor’s forecast that the impact of COVID-19 would push Italy into a recession in 2020, expecting a 0.3 percent contraction in the country’s gross domestic product, compared with the 0.4 percent growth foreseen in December. For the entire eurozone, the contraction is pegged at 0.5 percent with growth that is expected to drop from 1 to 0.5 percent.