Italy will become the first country in the world to attempt a nationwide lockdown as people were ordered to stay home, in a last-ditch measure to curb the spread of the highly infectious coronavirus across Europe’s fourth-biggest economy.
The death toll from the virus, which is on the cusp of turning into a pandemic, is edging towards 500.
Its leader has called it the country’s “darkest hour”, inviting comparisons to Britain during World War II when it was losing the fight against the Nazis.
The effects, both psychological and economic, could be devastating as the government visibly struggles to contain the damage.
“We need to change our habits right now,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said at an unscheduled news conference on Monday (March 9) evening. “We are forced to impose sacrifices” on the entire country.
Less than 48 hours after announcing drastic steps in the region around Milan, Mr Conte is now moving to widen restrictions by decree across the whole country with a population of more than 60 million.