Italy shops, bars and restaurants ordered to close

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A general view of a semi-deserted ancient open-air market La Vucciria on March 11, 2020 in Palermo, Italy. The Italian Government has taken the unprecedented measure of a nationwide lockdown, in an effort to fight the world’s second-most deadly coronavirus outbreak outside of China.

Tullio Puglia

Italy has tightened its nationwide lockdown further in response to the rising death toll from coronavirus, ordering all non-essential shops and services to close.

Announcing the measures Wednesday evening, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said supermarkets and pharmacies will be the only retailers to remain open in Italy.

The latest restrictions come as the virus death toll surged over 30% on Wednesday to more than 800 — the biggest daily jump since the start of the outbreak. Italy is already under a national lockdown restricting citizens’ movement and activities until April 3.

Conte said it was time to “go one step further” as he announced the closure of most commercial and retail activities with bars, restaurants and beauty salons among those ordered to shut. Public services remain in place and industrial production is allowed to continue, on condition that companies adopt safety measures to protect workers and prevent contagion.

The prime minister said the world was watching to see how Italy, now the country worst hit by the virus outside China, responds: “At this moment the whole world is certainly looking at us for the numbers of the contagion, they see a country that is in difficulty, but they also appreciate us because we are showing great strictness and great resistance,” Conte said in a Facebook address.

“I have a deep conviction. I would like to share it with you. Tomorrow not only will they look at us again and admire us, but they will take us as a positive example of a country that, thanks to its sense of community, has managed to win its battle against this pandemic.”

As of Wednesday evening, Italy recorded 12,462 confirmed cases of the virus, and 827 deaths, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University and Italy’s Civil Protection agency. The death toll from the virus a day earlier had been 631 people.

Pandemic plans

Conte had already announced earlier on Wednesday that the government will set aside even more money to tackle the outbreak, raising spending to 25 billion euros ($28.3 billion) — up from 7.5 billion euros announced last week. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic on Wednesday. There are at least 118,381 confirmed cases of the virus worldwide, according to the latest figures from the WHO.  At least 4,292 people have died globally, the WHO said.

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the U.S. will suspend all travel from Europe to the U.S. for 30 days, starting Friday night.

The measures will affect 26 European countries but the U.K. and Ireland are exempted from the restrictions, as are American citizens who have undergone virus screening. 

“These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground,” Trump said, calling the coronavirus a “foreign” virus and blaming Europe for not taking adequate action to control its spread.

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