Italian PM promises 'massive shock therapy' to overcome coronavirus as quarter of population put on lockdown

  • ITV News Europe Editor James Mates gives us the latest situation from Rome

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has promised “massive shock therapy” to overcome the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, after his government put one quarter of the country's population on lockdown in a bid to combat the crisis.

After mass testing uncovered more than 7,300 infections, Italy's outbreak has surged to nearly equal South Korea's, which had been tapering off, and trailing China, where Covid-19 is in retreat.

Italy's death toll now stands at 366, the second highest after China.

Mr Conte’s comments on Monday to daily La Repubblica came after the government imposed a virtual lockdown on the northern region of Lombardy and parts of neighboring Veneto.

“We will not stop here," the Italian PM said.

"We will use a massive shock therapy.

"To come out of this emergency we will use all human and economic resources,” he said.

A passenger leaving from Milan Central railway station signs a release form next to a patrolling soldier. Credit: PA

The measures announced over the weekend were unprecedented in Italy’s postwar history and reflected the rapid spread of the virus since it emerged in a small town outside the financial capital Milan last month.

Weddings and museums, cinemas and shopping centres are all affected by the new restrictions, and last week schools and universities were closed across the country for 10 days.

However, confusion reigned after the quarantine was announced, with residents and tourists from Venice to Milan trying to figure out how and when the new measures would take effect, with planes and trains still scheduled to run.

The Foreign Office (FCO) has advised against all but essential travel to affected areas, but said: “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."

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know

Inmates made it onto the roof of a prison in Milan as part of widespread protests. Credit: AP

Meanwhile, six inmates died at Pavia prison in Modena, according to officials who said they were protesting against the Covid-19 containment measures which meant they were not allowed any visitors.

During the protest they broke into the prison's infirmary and overdosed on methadone.

Riots also broke out in other prisons across the country.

Across the rest of the country, tourists numbers are significantly down and restaurants have been told they must keep patrons 3ft away from each other.

Mr Conte also called for strict European Union borrowing limits to be loosened in a bid to stop the measures sending Italy's already struggling economy into recession.

While Italy is the hardest-hit country in Europe, the rest of the world is also feeling the pressure of the respiratory disease:

The Six Nations match between France and Ireland has been postponed. Credit: PA
  • France

Paris St Germain said in a statement that their Champions League game at home to Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday would take place behind closed doors following a decision by the Paris police.

Additionally, the Six Nations match between France and Ireland due to take place at the weekend in Paris has been postponed, following advice from the French Government.

Meanwhile a maintenance worker at Disneyland Paris has tested positive for coronavirus, but the the theme park remains open as it is thought the staff member was on leave when they became ill.

Covid-19 has infected 1,100 people and killed 19 in France.

The Grand Princess will be able to let passengers off soon. Credit: AP
  • US

The number of Covid-19 cases in the United States has now surpassed 500 and 19 people have died.

Meanwhile, more than 100 Britons stuck on a coronavirus-hit cruise ship off the coast of California will soon be allowed to leave the vessel.

Passengers will disembark the Grand Princess from Monday - a process the liner's operator said will take a number of days.

Officials in Oakland are preparing to receive the 3,500 passengers and staff as they disembark after 21 on board were infected by coronavirus.

Fences were being installed at an 11-acre site at the Port of Oakland, as authorities organised flights and buses to whisk those on board to military bases or their 54 home countries for a 14-day quarantine.

The BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, California, will not take place due to the coronavirus, organisers have said.

Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Kim Clijsters were among the players due to take part in the tournament which was due to start in California on Monday.

Workers in Iran disinfect the shrine of the Shi'ite Saint Imam Abdulazim to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Credit: AP
  • Iran

Iran says the new coronavirus has killed another 43 people, pushing the death toll to 237 amid 7,161 confirmed cases.

However, there are fears that the number of cases and deaths are being under-represented.

A British-Iranian woman being held in a Tehran prison had symptoms consistent with coronavirus but they are improving, her husband said.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was taken to see a doctor at the jail earlier this week but was not tested, Richard Ratcliffe said in a statement issued by the Free Nazanin campaign.

Mr Ratcliffe said: "[The doctor] confirmed to her that her symptoms were clearly a virus and were consistent with coronavirus but he also confessed he was unable to test her with a testing kit.

"The doctor, however, did reassure Nazanin that since her symptoms had stabilised it was likely a positive sign that she was hopefully soon going to start to recover."

  • China

The situation in China is improving, with 40 new cases being confirmed on Sunday, down from 44 the previous day. This is the lowest figure since National Health Commission starting publishing date on January 20.

All the new cases are in Hubei province, with none being reported outside of the region for the second successive day.

A makeshift hospital in Wuhan. Credit: AP
  • Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia closed off air and sea travel to nine countries affected by coronavirus on Monday as Mideast stock markets tumbled over fears about the widening outbreak's effect on the global economy.

The state oil giant Saudi Aramco led the financial losses, dropping by 10% on Riyadh's Tadawul stock exchange and forcing a halt to Aramco's trading.

Tadawul remained open, but Boursa Kuwait's premier market shut down within 30 minutes of opening Monday as stocks again dropped by 10%, the third such emergency halt to trading in recent days.

A worker cleaning in the Philipines dons protective clothing. Credit: AP
  • Philippines

The Philippines' President has declared a state of public health emergency throughout the country after officials confirmed over the weekend the first local transmission of coronavirus.

On Monday, health officials reported a doubling in just a day of Covid-19 cases in the Philippines to 20 confirmed infections.