The Italian prime minister announced early this morning that the entire region of Lombardy and 14 other provinces were to be put into lockdown as the coronavirus continued to spread throughout the country.
“We want to guarantee the health of our citizens. We understand that these measures will impose sacrifices, sometimes small and sometimes very big,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said early on Sunday.
“But this is a time where we must take responsibility for ourselves.”
Earlier reporting said the decree would ban all public events, closing cinemas, theatres, gyms, discos, and pubs.
The new measures will apply to more than a quarter of the Italian population – about 16m people – and will be in force at least until 3 April. The region of Lombardy is home to more than 10m people.
Wedding and funerals are also suspended under the mandatory quarantine. Italy is Europe’s worst-hit country and reported a steep rise in virus infections on Saturday.
Italy has confirmed 5,883 cases, with more than 1,200 reported in a single 24 hours. The spread shows no sign of slowing.
The northern regions of Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, and Veneto are the hardest hit, representing 85% of cases and 92% of recorded deaths.