Coronavirus death toll rises in Italy to 366 as FCO warns against 'all but essential travel'

  • Video report by ITV News Europe Editor James Mates

The death toll of coronavirus cases in Italy has increased by 133 in one day to 366, as the Foreign Office warns against "all but essential travel" to northern regions of the country.

In the last 24 hours there have been 1,492 new cases, taking the total number of cases to 7,375 from 5,883.

The FCO has advised against all but essential travel to affected areas, but it says “British nationals remain able to depart Italy without restriction."

"Residents of other parts of Italy are permitted to leave the isolation areas to return home," the FCO advice added.

"Otherwise entry into and exit from these areas is forbidden without official permission on the grounds of strict necessity; the authorities have confirmed to us that this will be granted for reasons such as medical need or work requirements."

It comes as Italy's government announced more than a quarter of the country's population will be quarantined under extraordinary new measures, to stem the spread of coronavirus.

About 16 million people in the north of the country, including the Lombardy region and at least 14 neighbouring provinces will be on lockdown until at least April 3.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signed a decree just after midnight, which prohibits anyone from leaving or entering the affected regions, except for "exceptional cases."

He said: “For Lombardy and for the other northern provinces that I have listed there will be a ban for everybody to move in and out of these territories and also within the same territory.

“Exceptions will be allowed only for proven professional needs, exceptional cases and health issues.”

Millions of Italians are on lockdown to stem the spread of coronavirus. Credit: AP

The FCO warns against all but essential travel to the following areas of Italy:

  • Lombardy region (which includes the cities of Milan, Bergamo, Como)

  • Provinces of:

  • Modena

  • Parma

  • Piacenza

  • Reggio Emilia and Rimini (all in Emilia Romagna)

  • Pesaro e Urbino (in Marche)

  • Alessandria

  • Asti

  • Novara

  • Verbano-Cusio-Ossola

  • Vercelli (all in Piemonte)

  • Padova

  • Treviso

  • Venice (in Veneto).

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte signed a decree, prohibiting anyone from leaving or entering the affected regions. Credit: AP

There was chaos and confusion hours before Mr Conte signed the decree, as word spread that the government was planning the quarantine.

Packed bars and restaurants emptied quickly as people rushed to the railway station in Padua’s Veneto region.

Travellers with suitcases, wearing face masks, gloves and carrying bottles of sanitising gel shoved their way on to trains.

Some regional politicians were also taken by surprise.

Stefano Bonaccini, president of the Emilia Romagna region, said parts of the decree were confusing, and asked the premier for more time to come up with “coherent” solutions.

The mayor of Asti, in the Piedmont region, posted an irate video on his Facebook page condemning Rome for not keeping regional leaders in the loop.

“Nobody told me,” said Maurizio Rasero, adding that he had hundreds of messages on his mobile phone from alarmed citizens.

“It’s incredible that information that is so delicate and important would come out in the newspaper first, leaking everywhere even before local authorities learn about it.”

The outbreak in Europe. Credit: PA Graphics
  • What is the international situation?

Around the world, more and more countries are bracing for a surge in virus cases.

Western countries have been increasingly imitating China – where the virus first emerged late last year, and which has suffered the vast majority of infections – by imposing travel controls and shutting down public events.

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