10 Mar 2020

Coronavirus: Prison riots, deserted streets as Italy imposes lockdown

12:31 pm on 10 March 2020

Lockdown measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus will be extended across the whole of Italy, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte says.

A woman wearing a face masks in Rome.

A woman in Rome wears a face mask (file photo). Photo: AFP

People should stay at home unless they have solid reasons related to work, health or other special needs, Conte said, specifying that commuting to work would still be allowed.

School and university closures have been extended until 3 April.

"Our habits must change, must change now, we must all give up something for the good of Italy," Conte says, adding that the measures will come into effect on Tuesday morning.

The government also adopted a decree to stop all sporting activities, including Serie A football matches, the prime minister says.

Faced with Europe's most serious outbreak of Covid-19, Italy had on Sunday imposed strict controls on travel from the northern region of Lombardy and parts of neighbouring Veneto, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna.

The regional measures were already unprecedented in Italy's postwar history, and had tightened controls put in effect when the coronavirus emerged in a small town outside the financial capital Milan last month.

The government ordered cinemas, theatres and museums to close, cancelled sporting events and told shops and restaurants to ensure that patrons remained at least a metre apart.

Parliament has virtually closed down due to contagion fears, meeting just once a week to prevent a huge backlog of work.

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:

Just over 200 New Zealanders are registered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade as being in Italy.

Health Minister David Clark said officials were looking at whether more measures are needed at the New Zealand border for people arriving from all parts of Italy.

Clark said clinicians were being told to test people who are symptomatic, regardless of whether they've been in any of the Covid-19 hotspots.

Prisoners riot, families protest over visiting restrictions

Inmates stage a protest on a rooftop of a wing at the San Vittore prison in Milan on 9 March.

Inmates stage a protest on a rooftop of a wing at the San Vittore prison in Milan on 9 March. Photo: AFP / Mairo Cinquetti / NurPhoto

Inmates rioted in jails across the country, in unrest apparently triggered by restrictions on visiting rights imposed to fight the virus. Six inmates died in a prison in Modena. In Milan, prisoners set fire to part of the San Vittore prison before protesting on the roof after they were told that visits had been suspended.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the coronavirus outbreak was Italy's "darkest hour".

With 463 deaths now confirmed, Italy is the worst-hit country after China. The number of fatalities rose on Monday from the previous total of 366. The number of confirmed infections also increased to 9,172, up from 7,375 on Sunday. Cases of the virus have been confirmed in all 20 Italian regions.

On Monday morning, the main share index in Milan, the industrial powerhouse at the heart of the worst-affected area, opened down more than 8%.

Protest against restrictions on prison visits due to Covid-19 Poggioreale prison in Naples, Italy 9 March.

People protested outside Poggioreale prison in Naples over restrictions on visiting inmates. Photo: AFP / Paolo Manzo / NurPhoto

Threat of pandemic 'very real'

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the coronavirus is closer to causing a pandemic but outbreaks in countries can still be controlled through a combination of containment and mitigation measures.

"Now that the virus has a foothold in so many countries, the threat of a pandemic has become very real," WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference.

"But it would be the first pandemic that could be controlled. The bottom line is we are not at the mercy of the virus."

Four countries account for 93 percent of the nearly 110,000 cases worldwide, Dr Tedros said.

Juventus' Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo runs on the pitch in an empty stadium during the Italian Serie A football match Juventus vs Inter Milan, at the Juventus stadium in Turin on March 8, 2020.

Juventus' Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo runs on for the match against Inter Milan played in an empty stadiym in Turn at the weekend. Photo: AFP

What is the situation in other countries?

Qantas will reduce capacity by almost a quarter for the next six months. The airline said there had been a sudden and significant drop in demand and it will cut the number of flights and ground eight A380s. Jetstar will also make cuts to its international network.

Israel will require all citizens who return from abroad to self-quarantine for 14 days as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. The measure will be effective immediately for all Israelis returning to the country and apply to foreign citizens from Thursday.

Iraq has banned all public gatherings and called on citizens to avoid visiting sacred cities and sites to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

A fifth person has died in Britain from Covid-19. People with only minor symptoms will be asked to self-isolate in the next phase of the British government's plan to tackle coronavirus, England's chief medical officer said. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain was making extensive preparations for additional measures to tackle the outbreak. Johnson said the country remained in the "contain phase" of the outbreak but that the government was preparing to move to the so-called "delay phase".

The cruise ship Grand Princess, barred last week from returning to its home port of San Francisco due to a coronavirus outbreak on board, arrived at a temporary berth on Monday in the nearby Port of Oakland to the cheers of its passengers.

Canada's chief medical officer advised Canadians to avoid all cruise ship travel amid the outbreak, as the number of people who have contracted the disease surpassed 70.

The France v Ireland Six Nations rugby match is the latest major sporting event to be postponed due to coronavirus. Ireland had been due to play the match in Paris on Saturday. France has banned gatherings of more than 1000 people as the death toll and number of coronavirus infections continued to rise.

All travellers returning to Florida from travel to any other country should self-quarantine themselves for 14 days amid the coronavirus outbreak, state health officials said in a statement on their website on Monday

- Reuters / BBC / ABC / RNZ

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