dailymail.co.uk- The coronavirus death toll in Italy has risen by 133 to 366 as the country imposed a lockdown affecting 16 million people in a desperate bid to combat the spread of the killer bug.
The number of confirmed cases in the country increased by 1,492 to 7,375, with the new figures representing by far the largest daily rise in fatalities since the outbreak came to light last month.
Italy, which is the hardest hit European nation, has the highest number of cases outside China, the epicentre of the deadly disease, overtaking South Korea.
The head of the Civil Protection Agency said today that, of those originally infected, 622 had fully recovered, compared to 589 the day before. Some 650 people were in intensive care against a previous 567.
The quarantine imposed today by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte stops about 16 million people from moving in and out of the entire Lombardy region as well as parts of Emilia Romagna, Marche, Piemonte and Veneto.
Areas under lockdown include Milan, Italy’s financial hub and the main city in Lombardy, and Venice, the main city in the neighbouring Veneto region.
The majority of the deaths were in the Lombardy region in northern Italy, the civil protection agency said.
Anyone who flouts the quarantine rules – in which no-one can leave the ‘orange zone’ without a serious reason – could face three months in prison or a fine of up to 206 euros (around £178).
While information about the penalty for breaking the rules was released, confusion still reigned as residents and tourists tried to figure out exactly when and how the new rules were coming into effect.
Weddings, funerals, museums, cinemas, shopping centres and restaurants have all been hit by new restrictions.
The Pope, who has been ill in recent weeks, held his Sunday blessing by video instead of in person and described feeling like he was ‘in a cage’.
Travellers rushed to train stations and crammed aboard standing-room-only trains, tucking their faces into scarves and sharing sanitizing gel.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed that British tourists in the northern parts of the country ‘are free to return home or complete their holiday’ under guidelines from the Italian government.
They said nationals will not be met by anyone at the airport in Britain, nor will they be put into quarantine or told to take a test for the bug which has so killed more than 3,600 worldwide and has infected more than 100,000.
The FCO updated its advice on Sunday night, advising against all but essential travel to a wider area of northern Italy due to the crisis.
The move has been made following consultations with Italian authorities and the chief medical officer, the department said.
News of the impending quarantine was leaked to Italian media early prompting further chaos as people rushed to get out of the affected areas.
Under the quarantine, bars and restaurants will remain open but must ensure that everyone is seated at least three feet apart or face being shut down.
Weddings and funerals are also forbidden under the new rules.
The areas quarantined are: Lombardy, Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia, Rimini, Pesaro, Urbino, Alessandria, Asti, Novara, Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, Vercelli, Padua, Treviso and Venice.
A total of 11 towns in Italy were already considered part of a ‘red zone’, meaning they are the worst-hit areas.
Southern regions of the country warned hundreds of thousands of its people who emigrated to work in the north of the country not to return home.
The governor of Puglia made an impassioned plea on Facebook for them to remain in the north.
Michele Emiliano said: ‘I speak to you as if you were my children, my brothers, my nephews and nieces: stop and go back.
‘Get off at the first train station, do not catch planes … turn your cars around, get off your buses. Do not bring the Lombard, Veneto and Emilia epidemic to Puglia.’
Inmates in four Italian prisons revolted over new rules introduced to contain the coronavirus outbreak, which include a ban on family visits, a prison officers union said.
Prisoners at jails in Naples Poggioreale in the south, Modena in the north, Frosinone in central Italy and at Alexandria in the northwest had all revolted said the union, Osapp.
At Modena, near Bologna, two prison officers were injured and around 20 staff members had to leave the prison after the inmates revolted. The prison was now being guarded by police officers, the Ansa news agency reported.
At Frosinone, south of Rome, police had to be called in to restore order after about a hundred prisoners barricaded themselves into a section of the prison.
The protesting inmates drew up a list of demands, including the right to have visits from their loved ones, and tried to negotiate with the prison management, the Agi news agency reported.
And families of some of the inmates at Poggioreale, a suburb of Naples, gathered outside the prison to support them.
Italian football was plunged into a state of chaos and confusion when the kickoff to a Serie A match between Parma and SPAL faced a last-minute delay following a call from Italy’s Minister for Sport to suspend the league during the outbreak.
The chaotic football season witnessed a player revolt over the idea of having to play matches during the coronavirus outbreak and the league demand for the games to go ahead.
The game at the Stadio Ennio Tardini was set to be the first closed-doors match since the Italian government ordered that all games are played in empty stadiums until April 3 in a bid to control the spread of the disease.
Games in Turin where Juventus and Inter Milan faced off and AC Milan’s fixture against Genoa were also played without any supporters in the stands.
Alitalia also said it was suspending national and international flights to and from Milan’s Malpensa airport from March 9 after the government ordered a lockdown of large areas of northern Italy.
In a statement, the Italian flag carrier said it would operate only national flights from the smaller Milan Linate airport, and reduce the number of flights between Venice and Rome.
International routes will be served from Rome’s Fiumicino airport. The new regime will continue until at least April 3, the airline said.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis broke with centuries of tradition by enlisting the help of technology for his weekly Angelus prayer.
‘I am close through prayer with the people who suffer from the current coronavirus epidemic,’ the 83-year-old pontiff said in a message recorded at the Vatican library and aired live on a screen on Saint Peter’s Square.
The Pope himself tested negative for the contagion after he fell ill on Ash Wednesday with symptoms of a cold including a cough, fever, chills and sore throat.
Around the world, more and more countries are bracing for a surge in virus cases as the global death toll surpassed 3,600 with more than 100,000 diagnoses.
Some nations are imitating China – where the virus first emerged late last year and which has suffered the vast majority of infections – by imposing travel controls and shutting down public events.
Many countries – including Australia, Vietnam and the USA – have banned entry to anyone who has travelled through or to China recently.
Other countries, including Jordan and Lebanon, have also banned entry to anyone who travelled to Italy.
Mr Conte said: ‘For Lombardy and for the other northern provinces that I have listed there will be a ban for everybody to move in and out of these territories and also within the same territory.
‘Exceptions will be allowed only for proven professional needs, exceptional cases and health issues.’
It comes as the leader of one of Italy’s ruling parties tested positive for coronavirus marking the first senior politician to catch the bug in the nation.
Nicola Zingaretti is leader of the Democratic party and rules as part of a coalition with Five Star Movement.
Some regional politicians were also taken by surprise.
Stefano Bonaccini, president of the Emilia Romagna region, said parts of the decree were confusing, and asked the premier for more time to come up with ‘coherent’ solutions.
The mayor of Asti, in the Piedmont region, posted an irate video on his Facebook page condemning Rome for not keeping regional leaders in the loop.
‘Nobody told me,’ said Maurizio Rasero, adding that he had hundreds of messages on his mobile phone from alarmed citizens.
‘It’s incredible that information that is so delicate and important would come out in the newspaper first, leaking everywhere even before local authorities learn about it.’
Other countries around the world were also limiting activities, with events and festivals called off, and travel restrictions and warnings issued.
Around 90 countries outside China have reported infections, with Colombia, Costa Rica, Cambodia, Malta and Paraguay reporting first cases in the past 24 hours.
A nosedive in tourist traffic and possible disruptions to supply chains sparked fears of a worldwide economic slowdown.
Saudi Arabia banned spectators at any sports competitions, and the NBA, as well as British and Japanese sports teams, are considering doing the same, as baseball and soccer seasons are starting.
The spread of the virus has also taken a psychological toll.
Authorities and manufacturers have been trying to assure panicking consumers they do not need to hoard toilet paper, which has vanished from store shelves in various nations.
Of particular concern are passenger-packed cruise ships, many of which are confronting their own virus problems.
The Grand Princess, where 21 people tested positive for the virus, was heading for the port of Oakland, California, after idling off San Francisco for several days. There is evidence that the ship was the breeding ground for a deadly cluster of almost 20 cases during an earlier voyage.
US Vice President Mike Pence said: ‘Those that will need to be quarantined will be quarantined. Those who will require medical help will receive it.’
President Donald Trump said he would have preferred not to let the passengers disembark on to American soil, but would defer to medical experts.
In Egypt, a cruise ship on the Nile with more than 150 people on board was under quarantine in the southern city of Luxor after 12 positive tests.
Also on Saturday, the port of Penang in Malaysia turned away the cruise ship Costa Fortuna because 64 of the 2,000 on board are from Italy. The ship had already been rejected by Thailand, and is now heading to Singapore.
And in Malta, which reported its first case of the virus yesterday, the MSC Opera ship agreed not to enter the Mediterranean country’s port amid local worries – even though there are no infections suspected on board. The ship continued to Messina, Sicily, where passengers were allowed to disembark after officials reviewed medical records.
While the global death toll has risen past 3,400, more people have now recovered from the virus than are ill with it.
As of Saturday, nearly 90,000 cases have been reported in Asia; more than 8,000 in Europe; 6,000 in the Middle East; about 450 in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean; and fewer than 50 cases reported so far in Africa.
The virus is still much less widespread than annual flu epidemics, which cause up to five million severe cases around the world and up to 650,000 deaths annually, according to the WHO.
In Iran, fears over the virus and the government’s waning credibility has become a major challenge to leaders already reeling from American sanctions. More than 1,000 infections were confirmed overnight, taking the country’s total to 5,823 cases, including 145 deaths.
South Korea reported 93 new cases on Sunday morning, taking the total to 7,134, with 50 deaths overall.
China on Sunday morning reported 44 new cases over the past 24 hours, the lowest level since it began publishing nationwide figures on January 20, and 27 new deaths.
But while infections were increasing more slowly, the country was struck by a fresh tragedy: A hotel used for medical observation of people who had contact with coronavirus patients collapsed on Saturday, killing at least four people.
In the United States, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention urged older adults and people with severe medical conditions to ‘stay home as much as possible’ and avoid crowds.
The number of deaths linked to coronavirus in Washington state reached 16, although that figure could be higher, based on figures released by the nursing home at the centre of the outbreak.
The Life Care Centre of Kirkland said on Saturday that, since February 19, 26 of its residents have died. Typically, about three to seven residents die at the facility each month.
Even islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean have not been spared, with the tiny archipelago nation of the Maldives reporting its first cases. Health authorities there locked down two of its tourist resorts after two expatriate workers tested positive for the coronavirus.
The virus has returned to Vietnam, which reported its first new coronavirus case in three weeks as a woman who had returned from a trip to Europe during which she visited London, Milan and Paris.
Nguyen Hong Nhung, 26, was admitted to a hospital in the Vietnamese capital on Thursday suffering from a fever.
Greece has recorded 21 new cases, bringing the total in the country to 66.
Most of the cases were individuals in a travelling party that had gone on a pilgrimage to Israel and Egypt, the health ministry said in an announcement. The group returned to Greece on Feb. 27.
One of the travellers, a 66-year-old man, was in intensive care in the city of Patras in the western Peloponnese.
A row has erupted there between doctors and the influential Church of Greece over whether to restrict Holy Communion amid a rising number of coronavirus cases.
In Italy one of the big impacts has been loses of billions among the nation’s hotels, restaurants and popular tourist sites.
The federation of hospital doctors this week stressed that no exception ‘for religious, sacramental or metaphysical reasons’ should be made to state health warnings to please the Church.
Greece has so far confirmed 45 coronavirus cases, most of them among a group of pilgrims that travelled to Israel and Egypt last month.
But in the run-up to Orthodox Easter in April that traditionally sees a high turnout, the church is holding its ground.
‘It’s not possible to shut down churches, or to not give out Holy Communion,’ bishop Chrysostomos of Patras, one of the areas with the most virus cases, said this week.
‘Whoever believes that holy communion is life has nothing to fear, it’s a matter of faith.
‘Across the centuries, there is no case of sickness spreading through Holy Communion,’ he told Open TV.
In Romania, the Orthodox Church has allowed worshippers to bring their own spoon to communion and to kiss icons in their own homes.
The accelerating spread of coronavirus emptied Italian train stations and airports while turning parts of Rome into a ghost town.
Many of the city’s outdoor restaurants and cafes were either closed on Friday night or had free tables.
The expansive street that runs from Rome’s Colosseum along the Forum was deserted and the magnificent ruins weren’t swarmed by tourists.
The sharp drop in visitor numbers is wreaking havoc with the Italian tourism industry and contributing to fears that the anaemic economy is about to tip back into recession.
It comes as the WHO told all countries to make containment ‘their highest priority’ as the global death toll reaches 3,000 with more than 100,000 confirmed cases.
The WHO called the spread of the coronavirus ‘deeply concerning’.
Yesterday, the Italian government revealed they would draft in retired doctors to battle the crisis.
The decision to bring in 20,000 additional staff to fight the escalating epidemic was one of several measures adopted by the government during an all-night cabinet meeting after the country reported 49 more deaths in one day.
The Italian government said its medical recruitment drive should help double the staff of hospitals’ respiratory and infectious disease departments.
It should also increase the number of intensive care beds from 5,000 to 7,500 in the coming days.