Italy locks down wealthiest and most populous region amid coronavirus spread

Rome: Italy is set to lock down its wealthiest and most populous region, which includes the financial capital Milan, as part of tough new measures expected to be approved on Saturday to try to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

The new rules include telling people not to enter or leave Lombardy, which is home to some 10 million people, as well as 11 provinces in four of Italy's 19 other regions, according to a draft decree seen by Reuters.

The nearly deserted piazza outside the Duomo gothic cathedral in Milan, Italy. Credit:AP

All museums, gyms, cultural centres, ski resorts and swimming pools will be shut in the targeted areas, according to the decree, which is due to come into force from Sunday.

The legislation is expected to be approved later on Saturday, the head of the civil protection agency said earlier, after the number of coronavirus infections jumped by more than 1200 in the past 24 hours.

So far, only a few limited areas of northern Italy, known as "red zones", have been quarantined.

A tourist wearing a mask takes a photo at the Colosseum in Rome on Saturday. Credit:AP

The disease was first confirmed in Italy 15 days ago and remains mainly centred on northern regions, especially Lombardy, but cases have now been confirmed in each of the country's 20 regions, with deaths recorded in eight of them.

On Friday, the government approved a plan to employ up to 20,000 new doctors and nurses to respond to the emergency.

Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto represent 85 per cent of national cases overall and 92 per cent of recorded deaths.

"We will win this battle if our citizens adopt a responsible attitude and change their way of living," Borrelli said

In the worst affected areas, Italy's hospitals are under growing strain. The number of patients in intensive care rose to 567, up 23 per cent from the day before.

Of those originally infected, 589 have fully recovered.

National Health Institute chief Silvio Brusaferro said the average age of patients who have died was over 81. They were prevalently male and more than 80 per cent had more than two underlying health conditions.

The outbreak has killed more than 3400 people worldwide and spread across more than 90 nations outside China.

Reuters

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