Venice, Milan on lockdown as Italy announces sweeping quarantine

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By Alicia Victoria Lozano and The Associated Press  with NBC News World News
Image: Milan
A woman wearing a respiratory mask exits from the Palace of Justice in Milan, on Thursday.   -   Copyright  Piero Cruciatti

The Italian government on Sunday took the most drastic measures yet to try and stop the rapid spread of the new coronavirus, closing off the entire Lombardy region in the north, including Milan, and more than a dozen other provinces.The announcement came after Italy saw its biggest daily increase in coronavirus cases since an outbreak erupted there last month. The number of cases throughout Italy is now at 5,883, with close to half that number — 2,651 — hospitalized. More than 230 people have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus."We want to protect the health of all citizens," Conte said. "We are aware that this will create unease and that these measures will be a sacrifice, big and small. But this is the time to be responsible."Sunday's decree restricts anyone from leaving or entering designated red zones except for ''undeferrable work needs or emergency situations'' starting Sunday through at least April 3, according to Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

A woman wearing a respiratory mask exits from the Palace of Justice in Milan, on Thursday.
A woman wearing a respiratory mask exits from the Palace of Justice in Milan, on Thursday.Piero Cruciatti

It applies to some 10 million residents in Lombardy and another 6 million in provinces throughout the country, including Venice, Parma and Modena.Residents everywhere were instructed to avoid public gatherings. Cinemas, theaters, dance schools, bingo halls and pubs will also be closed. Restaurants will be allowed to remain open only if they can keep a 1 meter distance among customers.Shutting down the city could have a devastating impact on local businesses. Italy is the European Union's third largest economy, but tourism officials are projecting 32 million fewer foreign visitors and a loss of $8.1 billion in the second quarter alone. Foreign airlines are canceling flights to Milan, and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said the U.S. is screening all passengers from flights originating in Italy and other countries with coronavirus outbreaks.In the United States, 19 people have died from COVID-19, 16 in Washington state, two in Florida and one in California. Across the country, the overall number of cases has risen to 395 with more being added every day.Globally, coronavirus has been reported in more than 80 countries and sickened more than 100,000 people with the majority of cases in mainland China, where the virus originated. More than 3,500 people have died since January.