March 10, 2020
Nearly 60 million people are under mandatory lockdown procedures in Italy after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the expansion of what was initially just limited to the northern region hit hard by the coronavirus epidemic.
Though it is unclear how the government will ensure the public stays put except for work and emergencies, police reportedly can impose penalties on people traveling outside of what is necessary.
The change over to an entire nation's movement being restricted in two weeks, typifying how governments are scrambling to adjust in the face of a so-far uncontained virus. Globally, there are more than 114,000 cases and more than 4,000 deaths, but concerns remain that inaccurate testing may be leaving out actually higher case counts.
"It's definitely different today," Lenore Hawkins, chief macro strategist at Tematica Research, told Cheddar from Lake Como, Italy, adding that the local populace seems to be taking the directives to stay indoors seriously. She described that going outside, you won't see many people, and that they are avoiding each other and even stores.
Italy has the highest number of reported cases outside of China, where the outbreak originated at the end of last year, but as other countries see upticks in cases and prepare for those numbers to continue rising, the United States government has drawn concerns that it is not adapting quickly enough.
"I am absolutely mindblown by the lack of severity that the U.S. is giving this. There are a couple of things that the U.S. desperately needs to start doing," Hawkins said. "When this happened on February 21, the first three cases, Italy shut down 11 little towns that were the center of that outbreak and immediately started testing people."
Two weeks after the virus was first found in the U.S., there still appears to be a shortage of testing capacity. The Atlantic surveyed data nationwide and verified only 4,384 people had been tested as of 4 p.m. ET, March 9, in a nation of nearly 300 million people. South Korea had tested more than 100,000 people at roughly the same point during its outbreak.
Along with Italy's self-imposed isolation, British Airways announced today that it had canceled all flights in and out of the country, joining the list of airlines like Norwegian Air, Ryanair, and EasyJet halting travel to the stricken nation.
Other European Union members, all of which have now confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, are imposing measures to limit public gatherings and the spread of the illness. Austria, bordering Italy to the north, has set a ban on people entering the country via car, train, or plane.