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Italy banned any movement inside the country in its latest attempt to contain the coronavirus outbreak and reported another 651 fatalities on Sunday.
The total number of people killed by the disease reached 5,476, the highest globally, Angelo Borrelli, the head of the civil protection agency, said at a press conference after the government shuttered almost all industrial production for two weeks and banned any movement within the country.
The number of known cases jumped to 59,138 leaving Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s government struggling to isolate those potentially carrying the infection and hospitals battling to cope with a shortage of intensive care beds and with health-care workers dying.
”Today’s numbers are smaller than yesterday’s,” Angelo Borrelli, head of the civil protection agency, told reporters. “We all hope that this trend can be confirmed in the new few days. But we must not lower our guard.”
Borrelli’s cautious optimism was echoed by Giulio Gallera, health chief for the northern Lombardy region around Milan, the area worst-hit by the virus. The increase in the number of new patients in the area was about half of yesterday’s increase, with 1,691 new cases on Sunday, Gallera was cited as saying by Ansa.
Next week will be “absolutely crucial and we expect to see a sign of an inversion of the trend,” Franco Locatelli, head of the Superior Health Council, said at an appearance with Borrelli. He explained the he expects to see results between two and three weeks after the start of the nationwide lockdown in early March.
Italy’s health ministry announced Sunday that people will be restricted to the municipality where they currently are other than for “non-deferrable and proven business or health reasons or other urgent matters.” The measure applies to all private and public transportation.
The new order followed Conte’s decision late Saturday to temporarily halt all non-essential business activity as the country of 60 million faces its biggest challenge since World War II. Supermarkets, pharmacies, banks and post offices and other essential businesses will stay open, he said.
The government was concerned that thousands of idled workers with roots in the south could head back to their families, bringing the disease with them. Vincenzo De Luca, governor of the Campania region around Naples, urged Conte in a phone call Sunday to take “drastic measures” to block such a flow of citizens, the regional government said on its website.
Conte’s measures echo those adopted by the northern Lombardy region, the heart of Italy’s outbreak and the country’s economic engine room. Regional chiefs have urged the central government to take tougher action, often acting ahead of Rome.