Following China’s example after the initial coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, Italy has decided to quarantine some 16 million people. In recent weeks, the areas surrounding Milan and Venice have been hit hard by the coronavirus.
According to Italy’s Civil Protection Agency, a total of 7,375 people have so far been infected with the virus in Italy and 366 people have died.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signed the quarantine order on Sunday, March 8. It will be in effect until April 3, 2020.
In practice, the quarantine means that residents of Lombardy and 14 other northern provinces will need special approval in order to travel outside of their quarantine zone. In addition, all public events have been canceled and schools and universities have also been closed.
“There will be a ban for everybody to move in and out of these territories and also within the same territory,” Conte said. “Exceptions will be allowed only for proven professional needs, exceptional cases and health issues.”
Global anxiety on the rise
Worldwide, the number of infections has passed 107,000 with over 3,600 deaths. Iran has become another hotspot, with nearly 7,000 confirmed cases of their own. In the US there are more than 500 cases, and France has issued a ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people.
As countries the world over grapple with the best way to combat the spread of the virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) praised Italy’s efforts at containment.
In a tweet, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s Director General, acknowledged that “the government & the people of [Italy] are taking bold, courageous steps aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus and protecting their country [and the Earth],” adding that “they are making genuine sacrifices.”
In response to the threat of the virus in the state of Washington, Governor Jay Inslee said that his administration was “looking to determine whether mandatory measures are required,” adding that those requirements might involve social distancing by “reducing the number of social activities that are going on.”
No easy task
Although further measures enacted by governments around the world to stem the spread of the virus may be imminent, the rollout of quarantines is likely to be inherently messy.
As the news broke of Italy’s measures, confusion arose over how the quarantine would be enforced and what its extent would be.
Meanwhile, the extent of the economic impact of China’s quarantine is still not fully known. Although Beijing’s measures may have reduced transmission rates, it’s possible that the economic repercussions of the moves will be felt for some time.
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