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Italy set to quarantine Lombardy over coronavirus

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Via Financial Times

Italy was set to lock down the entire region of Lombardy in the prosperous industrial north as part of draconian new measures to contain the spread of coronavirus in the eurozone’s third-largest economy.

According to a draft decree that was expected to be approved by the Italian government, the measures include a ban on entering or exiting certain areas of the country, and the closure of museums, gyms, schools and ski resorts.

As well as Lombardy, the restrictions would affect other provinces in neighbouring regions, including Parma, Modena, Padua and Venice. The measures would be in place until April 3.

Italy more than 5,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus since the contagion came to light in the wealthy north on February 20, and at last 233 people have died.

According to a statement released by Italian Civil Protection on Saturday evening, 2,242 of the cases registered are in Lombardy.

There are growing concerns about the strain on the country’s healthcare system as well as fears that the spread of the disease could drive the country into recession.

Coronavirus has spread rapidly in Italy since February 21 when the first cluster of cases began to appear in towns including Codogno south of Milan. Those areas were rapidly put under lockdown, but the area facing similar restrictions has now been hugely expanded to cover millions of people and some of the most economically productive areas of the eurozone.

When the coronavirus outbreak was largely confined to China, Italy quickly moved to ban direct flights to and from the Asian nation. But travellers from Italy are now facing bans of their own, as well as periods of quarantine and self-isolation, around the world, as other countries seek to limit the spread of the disease.

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The move to ramp up restrictions on travel within Italy came after Nicola Zingaretti, the leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, said he had tested positive for coronavirus, and was staying at home.

“Doctors told me that I tested positive for Covid-19,” Mr Zingaretti said in a video posted on his Facebook profile on Saturday. “I feel good, but I will have to stay at home for the next days . . . and follow all the protocols,” he said.

Mr Zingaretti also said that all the people he had been in contact with in the past few days were being contacted for checks.

In the past weeks he has regularly visited the National Institute for Infectious Diseases in Rome, and other hospitals in the region where patients with coronavirus are being treated.

Roberto Gualtieri, Italy’s economy minister, this week announced a €7.5bn stimulus package to tackle the impact of coronavirus on the country’s economy and health system. Mr Gualtieri also told the European Commission that the Italian government would raise this year’s deficit goal to 2.5 per cent of national output from the current 2.2 per cent target.

Attilio Fontana, the president of Lombardy, said that while the tough measures were aimed at containing the virus, “the draft decree is, to say the least, ‘messed up’ and requires clarification from the government to allow citizens to understand what can be done or not.”

Luca Zaia, the president of Veneto, said he was against any “red zone”.

“I’m against curfew. What they are doing internationally — describing us as the new Wuhan, is rather scandalous. We have been the most careful in diagnosing,” he said.

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Carlo Canepa, a 30 year-old communications professional from the Italian region of Liguria, said: “Like many friends and colleagues, I live and work in Milan, but I am originally from another region. I don’t know when I’ll be able to see my family.”

Elisa Vieri, a 27-year-old Italian student on holiday in Portugal, was supposed to fly back to Milan on Sunday, but now does not know if she will be able to return home as planned.

“I’m constantly refreshing the webpage of the airline I’m flying with, but to no avail so far. I don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said.

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