Italy has imposed unprecedented travel restrictions on its 60 million people to control the deadly coronavirus outbreak in the country.
“I am going to sign a decree that can be summarised as follows: I stay at home,” Conte said on television, announcing that the entire country would effectively be placed on lockdown from Tuesday.
“Travel must be avoided across the entire peninsula unless it is justified by professional reasons, by cases of need or for health reasons,” Conte said.
These measures extend a quarantine zone that Italy had imposed on its northern heartland around Milan and the greater Lombardy region, Venice, and Pesaro Urbino on Sunday.
The restrictions will run until April 3.
All schools and universities will immediately close. Serie A football matches and all other sporting events are also being suspended for the coming month.
"Behind me are the funeral announcements."
Italian journalist, Francesca Borri, reports from the epicentre of the #coronavirus crisis in Lombardy, Italy.
— Al Jazeera News (@AJENews) March 10, 2020
All ski resorts are out of action and cinemas, museums, nightclubs and similar venues must remain shut after being ordered to close their doors over the weekend, the decree said.
While religious institutions will stay open, as long as people can stay a metre from one another, ceremonies such as marriages, baptisms and funerals are banned.
Anyone who wishes to travel is now required to fill out a standardised form justifying their reasons and submit it to authorities at train stations and airports, as well as on major roads between cities.
Supermarkets open overnight in Rome and Naples were packed with residents stocking up on food, soap, and disinfectant, Italian media reported.
Images showed people waiting calmly in queues outside the shops in the middle of the night, despite the government assuring the public that supermarkets will still be regularly restocked and asking Italians not to “go mad” with panic buying.
Francesca Borri, an Italian journalist from Alzano Lombardy, one of the northern areas that has been under quarantine for two weeks, told Al Jazeera: “Here we are at the epicentre of the crisis. Everybody regardless of what the government is saying or not saying is staying at home as much as possible. But outside of here, Italy has yet to realise what can happen and what will happen at this point. We are two weeks ahead of all of you.
“When the virus has spread this much, there is nothing you can do. Everything is infected. We can’t even speak by phone, because even phones are infected … It is beyond imagination.”
‘Very real’ threat
On Monday, the World Health Organization warned there was a “very real” threat of coronavirus becoming a pandemic, but its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the planet was “not at the mercy” of this illness that has killed more than 3,800 people so far.
Since coronavirus first emerged in China late last year, Italy has become Europe’s hardest-hit country.
It recorded 463 deaths as of Monday night, more than half of the 862 deaths reported outside China.
It now has the most cases and the highest number of deaths outside China, having surpassed Iran.
Worldwide, more than 110,000 cases have been recorded in more than 100 countries.
The outbreak has disrupted global travel, cancelled sporting events and sent markets into meltdown.
Romania and Malta are among the countries that have suspended flights to and from Italy. British Airways on Tuesday announced the airline would stop flying to and from Italy.
Regarding the economy, Italy will approve measures worth approximately 10 billion euros ($11.35 billion) to counteract the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, the industry minister said.
Stefano Patuanelli told Radio Capital the measures would likely cause the budget deficit to rise to just under 3 percent of national output this year.
Payments on mortgages will be suspended across the country, Laura Castelli, Italy’s deputy economy minister, confirmed.