Italy announces nationwide travel restrictions affecting 60 million people

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(Washington Post) – Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Monday that Italy planned to restrict movement throughout the entire country, locking down some 60 million people in an unprecedented move to contain the coronavirus.

The decision, aimed at dramatically reducing travel within one of Europe’s most connected countries, shows the once-unthinkable steps that a Western democracy is willing to take amid the threat of the accelerating virus.

The move indicates that Italian policymakers have come to believe that hard-line measures are the best way slow the virus.

Entering this past weekend, Italy had imposed relatively minor movement restrictions — applying to 11 small towns with a total of 50,000 people — near the epicenter of the country’s outbreak. Then, early Sunday, Italy took its first drastic move against the virus, with Conte announcing a plan to lock down areas around the virus’s epicenter in the north, with travel restrictions applying to 16 million people.

It is now cutting off its citizens, no matter where they live, from most kinds of travel, including to other countries and from one region to the other.

There is a sense in Italy that the country is facing its greatest emergency since World War II. In recent days, the number of people to fall ill has accelerated, with active cases reaching nearly 8,000. In less than three weeks, 463 people have died.

Conte said Monday that it was necessary to expand the restrictions.

“I’m about to take a measure that we can summarize with ‘I’m staying home,’ ” he said in introducing the changes.

As part of the announcement, Conte said schools would be canceled until April 3.

“Our habits need to change,” he said. “They need to change now.”

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