Italy Orders Massive Shutdown Amid Spread : NPR
As the novel coronavirus reached a global milestone, topping 100,000 cases across more than 100 countries over the weekend, Italy is imposing an extraordinary lockdown on about a quarter of its population and restricting public activities throughout the entire country.
The quarantine includes the cities of Milan and Venice, as well as the entire northern region of Lombardy, Italy’s financial heart. It affects more than 16 million people in coronavirus hotbed areas and is scheduled to remain in effect until at least April 3.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the move after confirmed cases in Italy spiked over the weekend. By Sunday more than 6,000 people were sickened and 366 dead — an uptick of 133 dead from the day before.
“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.”
In addition to the lockdown, Italy’s cordon sanitaire effort to tamp down on transmission includes temporarily shutting down all movie theaters, museums and other cultural sites throughout the country. Sporting events are closed to the public.
People may dine out at restaurants, drink in bars, exercise in gyms and shop in stores but only if managers guarantee patrons remain just over three feet apart. “In case of violation, the activity will be suspended,” the government said in a statement.
Pope Francis on Sunday delivered his weekly Angelus blessing via video screen, while the faithful in St. Peter’s Square stood several feet apart.
Italy, home of the highest number of cases outside of China, South Korea and Iran, is taking its lead from China, where the virus emerged late last year in the provincial capital of Wuhan. Beijing has placed tens of millions of people under lockdown in what it called an all-out “people’s war” against the spread of the disease that has already infected more than 80,000, the vast majority of the global total.
In the U.S., officials in Washington state are considering mandatory measures to limit the spread of the virus as it deals with the worst outbreak in the country.
“We are looking to determine whether mandatory measures are required,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee told Face the Nation. Those requirements would include social distancing and “reducing the number of social activities that are going on,” Inslee said.
At least 102 cases have been diagnosed in Washington with 16 people dead. Most fatalities are connected to Life Care Center, a nursing home in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland.
“We are contemplating some next steps, particularly to protect our vulnerable populations, and our nursing homes and the like,” Inslee said.
Nationwide, infections have steadily ticked up, with reports of cases reaching 400 across at least 19 states, but widespread problems in testing have hindered effective diagnosis.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, says he is not encouraged as he learns more about the outbreak’s scope in the U.S.
“Unfortunately, that better sense is not encouraging because we’re seeing community spread,” Fauci told Meet the Press.
He added there are not currently enough coronavirus test kits to meet demand, saying there earlier were “some missteps with regard to the test and some technical aspects to it.” He said 1.1 million tests have been sent out, with an additional 400,000 planned by Monday and about 4 million by the end of next week.
Even though Fauci maintains “the overall risk in the country of getting infected is low,” vulnerable people can act now to protect themselves.
“If you’re a person with an underlying condition and you are particularly an elderly person with an underlying condition, you need to think twice about getting on a plane, on a long trip, and not only think twice, just don’t get on a cruise ship,” Fauci said.
A cruise ship, which has lingered in limbo for days off the California coast with 21 people testing positive for the virus, is finally being allowed to dock.
“Grand Princess will proceed to the Port of Oakland on Sunday to begin disembarking guests who require acute medical treatment and hospitalization,” the cruise line tweeted.
Among the 3,000 people onboard, others will be allowed to disembark on Monday and will face testing and quarantine in federal facilities. Crew members will be treated and quarantined on board the ship, officials said.
On Saturday, Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C., announced the first presumptive positive coronavirus case in the nation’s capital. Another person tested positive who attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) conference in suburban Maryland late last month.
But President Trump is remaining upbeat in his coronavirus messaging. Asked if he was concerned about the encroaching virus, Trump said Saturday from Palm Beach, Fla., “No, I’m not concerned at all. No, I’m not. We’ve done a great job.”
As more cases crop up in the U.S. military, the Army is restricting travel for soldiers and their families to and from South Korea, where cases have topped 7,000, the highest number outside of mainland China.
USFK is aware of the Department of the Army’s order to stop movement for all Army Soldiers and family members moving to or from South Korea or Soldiers scheduled to attend professional military education in the United States due to COVID-19 concerns. We are analyzing the impacts. pic.twitter.com/ssedpmligj
— U.S. Forces Korea (@USForcesKorea) March 8, 2020
Reuters reports the Army is also restricting movement to Italy.