Sunday, 27 September, 2020

Coronavirus: Italy in ‘massive shock therapy’ pledge to offset virus impact



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Getty Images

Image caption

Many streets in Venice were virtually deserted over the weekend

Italy’s government has pledged to further increase spending in a “massive shock therapy” to offset the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

The country is struggling to adapt to the most restrictive measures since World War Two, introduced on Sunday.

Up to 16 million people in northern Italy now need permission to travel under quarantine rules.

With 366 deaths now confirmed, Italy is the worst-hit country in the world after China.

All of Italy’s 20 regions have confirmed cases, and the total number of infections now stands at 6,387.

How is the government responding?

On Monday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the government would pump more money to mitigate the impact of the outbreak.

He also said Italy would overcome the virus if people followed the rules, adding that the sacrifices required were for the good of all.

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Media captionMilan quarantine resident: “It’s really important to be responsible in this moment”

Separately, Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri said: “The government will spare no effort to ensure that a package of measures is agreed at the EU level in co-ordination with the whole international community.”

On Monday morning, the main share index in Milan, the industrial powerhouse at the heart of the worst-affected area, opened down more than 8%.

What are the restrictive measures?

The strict new quarantine measures would last until 3 April, the government said.

They affect a quarter of the Italian population, and centre on the rich northern part of the country that powers its economy.

The restrictions apply to the region of Lombardy and 14 other provinces: Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia, Rimini, Pesaro and Urbino, Alessandria, Asti, Novara, Verbano Cusio Ossola, Vercelli, Padua, Treviso and Venice.

The UK Foreign Office advises against all but essential travel to these areas.

All schools and universities in the area are shut, as well as museums, cinemas and swimming pools.

The government says only those with a serious work or family reason that cannot be postponed will be allowed in or out of the quarantine zone.

Passengers departing on flights, except temporary visitors, will have to justify themselves, as will all those arriving by plane.

There are controls at train stations to check temperatures.

Cruise ships are forbidden to dock in Venice.

The health system is under immense strain in Lombardy, a northern region of 10 million people where Milan is the main city. People are being treated in hospital corridors in the region.

World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has praised Italy for making “genuine sacrifices”.

Until Sunday only about 50,000 people in northern Italy had been affected by quarantines.

On Sunday, we drove up to the edge of the exclusion zone. We were expecting to see roadblocks or controls in place and we didn’t see anything at all.

Cars were going in both directions. It seemed as though the control of this restricted zone was quite loose, and that was a bit difficult to understand.

Is this simply too big an area to control and close off in the heart of Europe, or are the restrictions gradually coming into place?

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Reuters

We’ve seen pictures from inside the restricted cities, and the streets are very deserted, but we’re not seeing police checkpoints as such.

But perhaps this is going to be stepped up in the coming days because there are even penalties of three months in prison or a fine of €206 (£179; $235) for breaking the rules.

The real fear is that, in the hours between the quarantine being announced and it coming into effect, people have gone from more infected areas in the north down south.

There are healthcare facilities in southern Italy, far less developed than those here in the north, that are going to seriously struggle.

What is the situation elsewhere?

The number of infections worldwide is more than 107,000, with about 3,600 deaths.

On Monday, China, which has recorded the highest number of fatalities, reported no new locally transmitted infection outside of Hubei province, where the outbreak began, for the second consecutive day.

Although this indicates that the spread there is slowing, senior officials warned against reducing vigilance.

In South Korea officials reported the lowest number of new cases in two weeks.

Iran, one of the worst hotspots outside China, has now confirmed 6,566 infections and 194 deaths.

However, the real figure is feared to be much higher. One report on Sunday, quoting a government envoy, said there had been 200 deaths in the northern Gilan province alone – but the figures were later removed.

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Media captionPope Francis on videolink address: “The Pope is caged in the library”

In France, the virus is spreading among MPs. Two more members of the National Assembly have tested positive, officials said late on Sunday.

In total four deputies have been infected. Also on Sunday France reported 1,126 cases, a 19% increase in a day and the second largest number of infections in Europe after Italy.

The French government has banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people.


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