Cases of coronavirus surged in Italy over the weekend forcing officials to impose draconian rules – seen by many as a form of martial law – in a bid to halt the spread of the outbreak. The coronavirus, formally called COVID-19, has so far claimed four lives in Italy and infected 152, prompting authorities to impose fines on anyone caught entering or leaving outbreak areas. Police, who routinely carry guns in Italy, are patrolling 11 towns, mostly in the Lombardy region in the north of the country, after the government passed an emergency decree late on Saturday following the emergence of the first locally transmitted case on Friday.
The decree enables “extraordinary measures” to tackle the spread of the biggest European outbreak of coronavirus, including placing entire towns under lockdown.
It includes powers to stop people leaving or entering the worst impacted zones and fine those breaching the rules.
The measures also mandate that police and armed forces “have the authority to ensure the regulations are enforced”.
Italy’s industrial heartlands Lombardy and Vento, which jointly account for 30 percent of gross domestic output, are the worst hit areas in Italy.
Around a dozen towns in these regions have been placed on lockdown, resulting in some 50,000 people being forced into quarantine.
The residents have been told to stay home and avoid social contact, as schools, shops and businesses have been closed.
Several events have been cancelled, including several Serie A football matches and the final two days of the Venice carnival.
Schools and universities will also be closed for at least a week in Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont, while similar measures have been taken in Liguria and Alto Adige.
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On Sunday morning locals queued outside a supermarket in the town of Casalpusterlengo, 31 miles (50km) southeast of Milan as shoppers were only allowed to enter in groups of 40.
One man told AFP the measures were “inhuman”.
He said: “It’s inhuman. Fighting over four sandwiches is just disgusting.”
The spread of the virus prompted to fashion designer Giorgio Armani to prevent guests from attending a show on Sunday afternoon as part of Milan fashion week.
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Instead, the collection was shown to an empty room and streamed on the brand’s website, and social media pages.
A statement said: “The decision was taken to safeguard the wellbeing of all his [Armani’s] invited guests by not having them attend crowded spaces.”
The mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala, asked for all school to shut for the week.
He said: “It’s a prudent measure, then we’ll see if a week is sufficient. There are so many events in the city.
“I don’t imagine everything shutting down and being cancelled, but events that are not obligatory and which can be postponed, should be.”
Officials ramped up efforts to contain the virus after a 78-year-old Italian man in the Veneto region died on Friday.
A fourth person infected with coronavirus died on Monday.
The man was in his 80s and had been in hospital for treatment for an unrelated illness when he was struck by the virus.
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