Italy bans in­ter­nal travel after another 1,400 die

The Guardian - - Front Page - An­gela Gi­uf­frida Rome Michael Safi

Italy banned any move­ment in­side the coun­try and closed all non-es­sen­tial busi­nesses yes­ter­day as it des­per­ately sought to stem the spread of the virus fol­low­ing the deaths of 1,400 peo­ple at the week­end.

The es­ca­lat­ing measures, which leave the gov­ern­ment short of re­main­ing pop­u­la­tion con­trol levers, come as the rate at which Covid-19 is spread­ing around the world con­tin­ues to ac­cel­er­ate, growing by more than 130,000 cases in the past four days. Italy, the coun­try firmly at the cen­tre of the global cri­sis, ex­ceeded China’s death toll last week de­spite hav­ing fewer con­firmed in­fec­tions and a far smaller pop­u­la­tion.

More than 6,500 Ital­ians are now test­ing pos­i­tive ev­ery day, with the av­er­age age of those dy­ing 78.5.

Su­per­mar­kets, banks, phar­ma­cies and post of­fices are among the busi­nesses that will be per­mit­ted to keep trad­ing un­der the new rules. Ital­ians were also banned yes­ter­day from mov­ing across mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties other than for “non-de­ferrable and proven busi­ness or health rea­sons or other ur­gent mat­ters”, the health min­istry said.

Po­lice squads in Rome were check­ing doc­u­ments and fin­ing those out­side with­out a valid rea­son. Peo­ple who were out shop­ping were forced to wait in queues at shop en­trances to make sure the store had only a hand­ful of peo­ple at a time. Jog­gers were asked to limit their runs to laps around the block.

Peo­ple out for a walk were fined if they broke the rules and wan­dered into a park or stopped to take pic­tures of his­toric scenes of a city with­out any peo­ple.

The Ital­ian prime min­is­ter told the coun­try it was fac­ing its gravest mo­ment since the sec­ond world war and that all busi­nesses and fac­to­ries that were not “strictly nec­es­sary, cru­cial [or]

in­dis­pens­able” would close until 3 April. “We will slow down the coun­try’s pro­duc­tive en­gine, but we will not stop it,” Giuseppe Conte said late on Satur­day, shortly after it was an­nounced that 793 Ital­ians had died from coron­avirus, the most in a sin­gle day any­where in the world.

Another 651 Ital­ians died yes­ter­day, bring­ing the over­all toll to more than 5,400. Nearly 60,000 peo­ple across the coun­try are con­firmed to have the virus.

In other de­vel­op­ments:

• The first cases were con­firmed in Gaza and Syria, in­ten­si­fy­ing ex­ist­ing fears about how their health sys­tems would cope with an out­break.

• The death toll in Spain climbed past 1,720 peo­ple, ex­ceed­ing the of­fi­cial fig­ures of more than 1,600 killed in Iran, and the Span­ish prime min­is­ter, Pe­dro Sánchez, warned that “the worst is still to come”.

• More than 1 bil­lion In­di­ans were asked to ob­serve a one-day cur­few, and Aus­tralia in­tro­duced curbs on com­mer­cial ac­tiv­ity.

• At least 23 peo­ple died and dozens more were injured as Colom­bia’s pris­ons were rocked by ri­ots and protests by in­mates de­mand­ing bet­ter pro­tec­tion from the virus.

• The Ger­man chan­cel­lor, An­gela Merkel, was quar­an­tined after it emerged that one of her doc­tors had tested pos­i­tive, while Rand Paul be­came the first US sen­a­tor to test pos­i­tive.

• The Span­ish opera star Plá­cido Domingo an­nounced on Face­book that he had con­tracted the virus.

“The fig­ures an­nounced to­day are lower than those for yes­ter­day,” the Ital­ian civil pro­tec­tion ser­vice chief, An­gelo Bor­relli, told re­porters. “I hope and we all hope that th­ese fig­ures can be borne out in the com­ing days. But do not let your guard down.”

How­ever, Save­rio Chiar­avalle, vice-pres­i­dent of the or­der of doc­tors in Varese, Lom­bardy, said of the Ital­ian fig­ures that “the num­bers are still go­ing up too much” .

“Maybe there was a slight de­crease to­day but we can’t be en­thu­si­as­tic yet be­cause until yes­ter­day there were re­mark­able in­creases. It is early to be optimistic – there are emer­gency units in Lom­bardy that are still over­whelmed. For a month we’ve been try­ing to fight this like crazy and we haven’t yet seen a ma­jor re­sult.

“In many cities there are peo­ple who still don’t un­der­stand the im­por­tance of stay­ing at home,” Chiar­avalle added. “We need strict rules, all medics agree with the rules as one of the only weapons we have to fight this is to iso­late. It is a sac­ri­fice by all, for all, to try and over­come this sit­u­a­tion.”

Italy now ac­counts for more than a third of the world’s to­tal of around 13,000 deaths. It has the sec­ond-high­est num­ber of cases, with 53,578 out of the global to­tal of more than 307,000.

In­dia’s con­firmed coron­avirus cases grew to 341 yes­ter­day and the gov­ern­ment or­dered lock­downs in 75 dis­tricts across the coun­try to con­tain the spread.

The cap­i­tal, Delhi, was among sev­eral cities to ban all gath­er­ings and close all but non-es­sen­tial busi­nesses. The prime min­is­ter, Naren­dra Modi, said the cur­few ob­served yes­ter­day – marked with rau­cous ap­plause and bang­ing of pots at 5pm to thank emer­gency ser­vice work­ers – was im­por­tant but a long fight lay ahead.

China, which recorded its first new do­mes­tic case for four days, still has the most cases, with 81,346, ac­cord­ing to Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity in the US, but the United States has the third high­est num­ber of cases.

Coron­avirus cases in the US in­creased to more than 30,000 yes­ter­day, while lead­ers in New York urged Don­ald Trump to pro­vide more fed­eral help, warn­ing more would die with­out it. The US has 85 mil­lion peo­ple sub­ject to stay-at-home or­ders after New Jer­sey on Satur­day joined New York, Con­necti­cut, Illi­nois and Cal­i­for­nia in or­der­ing peo­ple to stay in­side.

As con­cerns mount about the im­pact of the out­break on the world’s num­ber one econ­omy, con­gres­sional lead­ers and White House of­fi­cials were in talks about launch­ing a $1tn stim­u­lus pack­age.

The Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment or­dered the clo­sure of restau­rants, cin­e­mas and pubs – the last spark­ing a run on al­co­hol stores – but said schools would re­main open for now, though some states have al­ready or­dered stu­dents not to go to class.

South Aus­tralia and Western Aus­tralia said they would close their bor­ders to other states this week.

In Latin Amer­ica, Mex­i­can health au­thor­i­ties said on Satur­day that there were 251 con­firmed coron­avirus cases in the coun­try, 48 more than a day ear­lier.

Colom­bia has recorded its first death, a taxi driver who car­ried two Ital­ians in his cab ear­lier this month be­fore be­com­ing ill. In Ar­gentina, the gov­ern­ment is con­sid­er­ing declar­ing a “state of siege”, the se­cu­rity min­is­ter said, in or­der to en­force its na­tion­wide lock­down.

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