ROME — The Italian government today approved emergency measures limiting movement for over 16 million citizens until April 3 to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Residents of the Lombardy region — one of Italy’s richest and most industrialized regions, which includes Milan — and 14 other provinces in northern Italy will only be allowed to leave their homes for urgent health and professional reasons, according to a decree signed by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
The affected areas include Venice, Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia, Rimini, Pesaro and Urbino, Alessandria, Asti, Novara, Verbano Cusio Ossola, Vercelli, Padua, and Treviso.
Tourists and residents trying to enter or leave Lombardy, the worst-affected region, will face fines, according to the decree. School closures in the region have been extended until April 3 and public events have been canceled. Theaters, cinemas and other entertainment venues nationwide have been ordered to suspend their activities.
The measures come after authorities reported a spike in the number of infections. There are now more than 5,800 cases of coronavirus nationwide, an increase of 1,200 in a 24-hour period. The figure includes some 589 people who have fully recovered and 233 who have died of the virus. More than half of cases were reported in Lombardy.
News of the government measures, which leaked to the press Saturday evening, prompted hundreds of people to flee the so-called extended “red zone” to avoid being trapped in the region.
The leak “triggered confusion, uncertainty and insecurity in the country and we cannot accept this,” Conte said during a press conference.
This article has been updated to clarify the length of school closures. Schools in the affected regions will be closed until April 3, while schools and universities in the rest of the country are set to reopen on March 15.