CORONAVIRUS

Italy Quarantines North In Drastic Bid To Slow Virus Spread

Mar 8, 2020, 12:17 PM | Updated: Jun 22, 2022, 4:19 pm
An empty street in the city center on March 08, 2020 in Milan, Italy. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte...
An empty street in the city center on March 08, 2020 in Milan, Italy. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced overnight a "national emergency" due to the coronavirus outbreak and imposed quarantines on the Lombardy and Veneto regions, which contain roughly a quarter of the country's population. Italy has the highest number of cases and fatalities in Europe. (Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)
(Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)

ROME (AP) — Italy took a page from China’s playbook Sunday, locking down around 16 million people — more than a quarter of its population — for nearly a month to halt the relentless march of the new coronavirus across Europe.

Weddings, museums, shopping malls, and even restaurants are all hit by the new restrictions, which focus on a swath of northern Italy but are disrupting daily life around the country.

From Venice to Milan, confusion reigned as residents and tourists tried to figure out when and how the new measures were coming into effect. Travelers crammed aboard standing-room only trains, tucking their faces into scarves and sharing sanitizing gel.

Around the globe, more and more events were canceled or hidden behind closed doors, from the pope’s Sunday service to a Formula One car race in Bahrain and a sumo competition in Japan. Cruise ships navigated troubled times from California to Egypt.

After Italy saw its biggest one-day jump in infections, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte signed a quarantine decree overnight for the country’s prosperous north. Areas under lockdown include Milan, Italy’s financial hub and the main city in Lombardy, and Venice, the main city in the neighboring Veneto region. The extraordinary measures will be in place until April 3.

“There will be a ban for everybody to move in and out of these territories and also within the same territory,” Conte said. “Exceptions will be allowed only for proven professional needs, exceptional cases and health issues.”

The fate of foreign visitors stuck in Italy’s new quarantine zones is still unclear.

The pope, who has been ill, held his Sunday blessing by video instead of in person, even though he wasn’t directly affected by the lockdown. He described feeling like he was “in a cage.”

It’s a feeling familiar in China, where the government locked down about 60 million people in central Hubei province in late January. Six weeks later, they’re still effectively stuck.

The World Health Organization has said China’s move helped the rest of the world prepare for the virus to arrive, and WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted his support Sunday for Italians and their “bold, courageous steps aimed at slowing the speed of the coronavirus.”

China has suffered about three-fourths of the world’s 106,000 coronavirus infections and most of its nearly 3,600 deaths. New infections in China have leveled off dramatically, however, and most of those infected, in China and globally, have already recovered.

Infections mounted higher Sunday in other epicenters — South Korea, Iran and especially Italy. And with a nose-dive in tourist traffic and major disruptions to supply chains worldwide, stocks struggled Sunday as Mideast indexes fell 4% to 10%.

Italy is closing all museums and archaeological sites, even those far from the lockdown zone. It suspended all weddings until April 3. The northern regions concerned by Sunday’s decree are closing cinemas and ski slopes.

Eateries all around Italy are expected, somehow, to keep patrons a meter away from each other.

The Vatican Museums are now closed, including the Sistine Chapel, in yet another blow to Italy’s all-important tourism industry.

Lombardy’s governor, who is in quarantine himself, sought to calm the public, discouraging hoarding and insisting “we’re not going to war.”

Chaos erupted in the hours before Conte signed the decree, as word leaked about the planned quarantine. Italy is up to 5,883 cases as of Saturday, and the death toll rose to 233.

Students at the University of Padua in northern Italy who had been out at bars on a Saturday night saw the reports on their phones and rushed back to the train station.

In a reversal of the stereotypical north-south tensions in Italy, the governor of Puglia urged northerners to stay away and not bring virus infections down south.

“Get off at the first railway station. Don’t take planes to Bari and Brindisi,” Gov. Michele Emiliano said in his dramatic appeal, citing two cities in Puglia with airports. “Turn around in your cars, get off the pullman buses at the next stop.”

By Sunday afternoon, residents of northern Italy remained confused.

Factory worker Luca Codazzi was set to come out of a two-week quarantine at midnight Sunday — but instead was facing new limits on his freedom.

The government decree “was badly written, there are very many interpretations,’’ he said. “In theory, the cordon should go down at midnight,’’ Codazzi said. “The problem is, there are various reasons one can travel” within Lombardy, but those reasons aren’t clear, he said. He still doesn’t know whether his factory will be open Monday.

Elsewhere, the virus outbreak has left the cruise ship industry in disarray.

The Grand Princess cruise ship, where 21 people have tested positive for the virus, was heading Sunday to Oakland after idling off San Francisco for days. It expects to land Monday. Dozens of Americans will be transferred to a military base outside Atlanta for testing, but it’s not yet clear what will happen to passengers from other countries. The ship had a cluster of almost 20 infections during an earlier voyage that has led to one death.

Another cruise ship is in quarantine on the Nile in Egypt with 45 confirmed virus cases. Two other ships with no confirmed cases were turned away this weekend from Malaysia and Malta amid virus fears.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged older adults and people with severe medical conditions to “stay home as much as possible” and avoid crowds. A federal official told The Associated Press that the White House had overruled health officials who wanted to recommend that elderly and sick Americans not fly on commercial airlines too. A spokesman for U.S. Vice President Mike Pence denied that.

The U.S. death toll from the virus climbed to 19, with most victims in Washington state. Infections rose to over 430, including the first case in the nation’s capital.

As the virus spreads, dozens of research groups around the world are racing to create a vaccine.

As of Saturday, nearly 90,000 cases have been reported in Asia; nearly 10,000 in Europe; about 7,000 in the Mideast; around 450 in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, and fewer than 50 cases reported so far in Africa. More than 60,000 people have recovered worldwide.

China on Sunday reported 44 new cases over the past 24 hours, the lowest level since it began publishing nationwide figures on Jan 20, and 27 new fatalities. South Korea reported 272 new cases, taking its total to 7,313, with 50 deaths overall.


Angela Charlton reported from Paris. Ken Moritsugu in Beijing, Nicole Winfield and Trish Thomas in Rome, Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo, Chris Blake in Bangkok, Maria Sanminiatelli in New York, Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, Ashok Sharma in New Delhi, Anna Johnson in London, David Rising in Berlin and Jonathan Poet in Philadelphia contributed to this report.


 

The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Coronavirus

FILE PHOTO (Photo by Jacob King - WPA Pool/Getty Images)...
MIKE STOBBE, AP Medical Writer

Moderna COVID-19 shots now an option for older kids in US

There is now a second COVID-19 option for kids ages 6 to 17 in the U.S.
4 days ago
Pfizer says it's COVID-19 vaccine is 100% effective in kids 12 to 15. (Justin Tallis-Pool/Getty Ima...
Jen Christensen, CNN

What are the COVID-19 vaccine side effects in young kids? Experts seek to ease parents’ concerns

Experts look at what side effects to expect from the COVID vaccine for children six months and older.
6 days ago
The Nurse Crisis and Patent Risk....
Debbie Worthen

Utah registered nurses are leaving the field, creating the ‘perfect storm’

"Without nurses, we can't have hospitals." Utah nurses are overworked and underpaid. Some say it's put people at risk.
7 days ago
Four-year-old Viola Fairfax-Panza Getting her COVID-19 vaccination, held by her mother Keke Fairfax...
Jed Boal

Salt Lake Co. distributes COVID vaccines for children 6-months and older

Salt Lake County begins COVID-19 vaccinations for children 6 months and older.
7 days ago
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about Covid-19 vaccines for children, in the Roosevelt Room of the ...
ZEKE MILLER and JOSH BOAK, Associated Press

Biden visits clinic, celebrates COVID shots for kids under 5

President Joe Biden is celebrating that virtually all Americans can now get a COVID-19 shot after the authorization of vaccines for kids under 5 over the weekend.
7 days ago
FILE (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)...
MIKE STOBBE, ASSOCIATED RPESS

US opens COVID vaccine to little kids; shots begin this week

The U.S. on Saturday opened COVID-19 vaccines to infants, toddlers and preschoolers. The shots will become available this week, expanding the nation’s vaccination campaign to children as young as 6 months.
9 days ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Italy Quarantines North In Drastic Bid To Slow Virus Spread