Coronavirus forces Italy to quarantine 16 million people to contain killer bug

Over a quarter of Italy's population, some 16 million people, has been forcibly quarantined in an attempt to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

In a drastic move in the wealthy north region of the country, including Lombardy and at least 14 provinces in surrounding regions, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signed a decree banning entering or exiting the areas just after midnight yesterday.

The measures will be put in place until April 3.

Mr Conte 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."

Rumour of Conte's plans circled before his announcement causing scenes of chaos as masses ran from bars and restaurants to the railway station in Padua's Veneto region with masks on, hand gel and suitcases.

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Some politicians were also taken off-guard by the decision with Stefano Bonaccini, president of the Emilia Romagna region, saying that parts of the decree are not "coherent".

Italy experienced a sudden spike in coronavirus cases on Saturday, February 21.

That was when 1,247 more people were announced as having contracted the virus within the space of 24 hours, taking the total to 5,883.

Another 36 people also died from virus, taking the overall number to 233.

Attempts to quarantine large portions of the population could be echoed in countries around the world as events and festivals have already been called off.

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Sports teams across the world are thinking of banning spectators from events as Saudia Arabia has already done.

While many scientists are declaring the world as facing a pandemic, the World Health organisation insists on not using that word just yet, with fears that it will only cause universal worry.

The virus has still not reached the level of annual flu epidemics, which cause up to five million severe cases worldwide and up to 650,000 deaths annually, according to the WHO.

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