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Coronavirus, Italy tightens lockdown as deaths climb

The whole country will be locked-down until April 3rd as the coronavirus outbreak worsens. The goal is containing the emergency - but economic consequences can be harsh

by Alberto Magnani

A few commuters travel in the underground on March 10 in Milan (Reuters)

3' di lettura

At 7 am on an average working day, streets in Milan are usually clogged up of cars, scooters, and buses packed of commuters. On Tuesday 10th March that was not the case - but it was far from being an ordinary morning, either. On Monday evening the Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte has announced that the entire country will be locked down until April 3, in a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Measures were further tightened on Wednesday 12th March as cases and deaths keep climbing in the whole country. Shops, bars, and restaurants will be now closed for two-weeks, while businesses have to reduce their activity and urge staff to work from home. Groceries and pharmacies will remain open and public transport is still running. People are now obliged to remain home unless they can prove they need to go out for work, health issues or purchase essential goods. Violators face up to three months in jail or a 206 euros fine.


“We have no time”, Mr. Conte said on Monday in a televised address to the nation. Alas, the facts proved him right. Italy is now the worst-hit country in Europe with 827 deaths and more than 12,400 cases. Social tensions are also on the rise, as the health system is on the brink of collapse and officials fear that a further spread will make it implode short.

How did we get this far
The government imposed likewise limitations in Lombardy and 14 provinces on Saturday, to contain the outbreak within its original clusters. Lombardy, the region encompassing Milan, is by far the worst-hit epicenter with 7.280 cases out of 12.462 and 617 deaths out of 827. As a leaked draft of the decree made its appearance on national and international media, people rushed to Milan's central station to leave the city before it took effect. As a result, health officials warned that the virus could now be spreading in the whole country and especially in the already-troubled southern regions. Italy recorded a stunning spike of 1.700 in the space of one day.

Rockin’ in the unfree world
New containment measures are putting Italy to the test. People can now move only for work, health issues and urgencies, as long as they fill in a self-certification. Schools and universities will be closed until April 3rd. Cinemas, theaters, gyms, and pubs are shut down, and people won't be able to assemble in public anymore. Sports events are suspended too, though people can train open-air (proved they do not fail to respect the safety distance).

The lockdown is expected to contain the emergency as the health system starts showing some good signs. The death growth is slowing down and so cases are. The so-called patient zero, a 38-years-old from Codogno, is reportedly recovering. Quarantine imposed in Lombardy and Veneto is bearing its fruits as cases and deaths have been falling in those areas.

Yet the nationwide lockdown comes with a cost. The outbreak is undermining the Italian economy and could push it to the brink of recession. The tourism sector, accounting for 12% on Italian GDP, is suffering huge losses as cancelled bookings surge and major airlines cut their flights to and from the country. Blocking Milan, Italy's business capital was a shock for firms and investors. The FTSE Mib, Italy’s benchmark index, shrank on Monday as much as 11% amid fears that quarantine was to expand nationwide. The government is already scheduling a “shock therapy” to sustain Italian economy and asked for “more flexibility” to the European Commission. Whether it will work or not remains to be seen. This time, Mr. Conte said, “health came first” than any economic forecast. That is hardly wrong - but he should deal with what is coming after, too.

Per appronfondire:
Italy, Coronavirus outbreak threatens the economy
Coronavirus in Italy, what we know so far

Riproduzione riservata ©
  • Alberto MagnaniRedattore

    Luogo: Milano

    Lingue parlate: inglese, tedesco

    Argomenti: Lavoro, Unione europea, Africa

    Premi: Premio "Alimentiamo il nostro futuro, nutriamo il mondo. Verso Expo 2015" di Agrofarma Federchimica e Fondazione Veronesi; Premio giornalistico State Street, categoria "Innovation"


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