Italy on Sunday quarantined 14 provinces as well as the northern Lombardy region – 16 million people, about a quarter of the country’s population – to prevent further spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
“We created two regions. One of them concerns Lombardy and the other concerns various provinces. We will apply a stricter security procedure to these two zones, and there will be a restriction on entries and exits,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told a press conference.
To date coronavirus has claimed 233 lives in Italy. The number of confirmed cases climbed to 5,061, making it the hardest-hit country in Europe as well as one of the worst affected worldwide.
Along with Lombardy, the quarantine includes the cities of Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia, Rimini, Pesaro e Urbino, Alessandria, Asti, Novara, Verbano Cusio Ossola, Vercelli, Padova, Treviso and Venice.
Conte said sports events will be performed without spectators, and all other activities in all public spaces have been canceled. He added that museums, cinemas, cultural centers, ski resorts, pools, and sports halls in the quarantine regions are closed.
Schools in all quarantined locations will be on break until April 3, he added.
First detected in Wuhan, China, in December, the virus, officially known as COVID-19, has spread to more than 80 countries.
The global death toll is around 3,500, with more than 100,000 confirmed cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
As part of efforts to contain the outbreak, governments have closed borders and suspended land and air travel with the worst-hit countries such as China, Iran, and Italy.
After declaring the outbreak an international health emergency in January, the WHO last month updated the global risk level to “very high.”