Milan, Feb 23 (IANS) After a special cabinet meeting, the Italian government has announced tougher measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, as number of cases in the country increased to 79 with two fatalities.
The government’s new measures include a ban on people entering and leaving the designated areas in the worst-hit northern Italy, and the suspension of all public, business, sports and school activities and events in the areas, Xinhua news agency quoted Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte as saying on Saturday.
Conte said the containment measures will be enforced by the police and military if necessary.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza said the decree empowers Ministers to, for example, suspend sports events and school trips within Italy and abroad.
“Isolating the positive cases is the best way to contain the epidemic,” said Speranza, who issued a directive on quarantine measures that went into effect Saturday.
“Regional health authorities are mandated to apply quarantine measures with active surveillance for 14 days to individuals who have had close contact with confirmed cases of COVID-19 infectious disease,” the directive said.
In a statement, President Sergio Mattarella called for “the full cooperation of the entire population in following the instructions of the health authorities” while thanking Italy’s medical professionals, members of the Civil Protection Department and the Armed Forces for their “abnegation and generosity in tackling and stemming the risk of the spread of the coronavirus”.
Of the confirmed cases in Italy, the cases and deaths were recorded in four regions in northern Italy, of which Lombardy is worst hit with 54 infections, according to Angelo Borrelli, head of the Civil Protection Department.
Earlier on Saturday, 19 Italians returned from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan and were transferred to a military facility near Rome, where they are put under 14 days of medical observation.
In Rome, the Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases (INMI), from which a patient was discharged on Saturday after recovery, said that the clinical conditions of an old Chinese couple in the Lazio region “are improving continuously and progressively,” and the husband has tested negative.
The Chinese tourist couple fell ill during their visit to Rome and have been hospitalized since the end of January for coronavirus infection.
On January 31, Italy declared a national state of emergency and allocated 5 million euros ($5.4 million) for coping with the coronavirus situation.