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Italy on Lockdown to Contain Coronavirus Spread

St. Peter's Square is seen behind a barricade erected amid a coronavirus lockdown throughout Italy, at the Vatican, in Rome, March 10, 2020.
St. Peter's Square is seen behind a barricade erected amid a coronavirus lockdown throughout Italy, at the Vatican, in Rome, March 10, 2020.

To combat the spread of coronavirus, the Italian government has taken the unprecedented step of turning all of Italy into a security zone and banned all unnecessary travel or movement from one’s home unless necessary and justified.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the new restrictive measures were absolutely essential for the present and future of the Italian nation and population. He said the constraints, affecting tens of millions of Italians, will be in place until early April.

Italians are describing the new life they woke up to on Tuesday morning across the country as "surreal." Just weeks ago, people were going about business as usual, but now, they say, their lives have been turned upside down, everything has changed and uncertainly and fear prevail.

In an unexpected move announced to the nation Monday evening on national television, Conte increased restrictive measures across Italy to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Italy has more than 9,000 confirmed cases and intensive care units in hospitals are finding it close to impossible to deal with the growing numbers.

Conte announced that starting Tuesday and until April 3, none of Italy's 60 million citizens would be able to travel or move from one place to another in the country unless it could be justified because of work, a medical reason or an emergency. He said all schools and universities would also remain closed until that date, as will museums and gyms and that sporting events are suspended.

Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican has been closed, as have been all churches in the country. Weddings and funerals are canceled.

Rome resident Gianluca Acanfora described why waking up was so different Tuesday.

Acanfora said he woke up to complete silence because not a single car went by. Normally he has always woken up with the sound of traffic but that’s not what happened Tuesday.

Another Rome resident, Alessandra Scoca, said she ventured out in her car on her own as she had an errand to run. She described a Rome that only appears this empty early on New Year’s Day.

She said there were really very few people, and people were being very careful to ensure they kept a distance from each other in all situations.

People were lining up outside supermarkets and pharmacies. They were being allowed in one at a time to ensure no one got too close to another. But everyone agreed it was all very civilized.

Massimo La Rocca, a manager, says his company is having more than half of its employees work from home and that no one is allowed to use the elevator to avoid any risk of contracting the virus through close contact. La Rocca says Italians have reacted very well to the government’s decisions because everyone understands there is no other way to contain this outbreak.

Everyone with whom VOA spoke said many people in other countries have not understood just how fast this virus spreads and how easily it can be transmitted. The Italians say others should view their Italy as an example.

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