Coronavirus: Italy says 1,000 have died but lockdown can work

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio: “There is a way to defeat this virus”

Coronavirus has claimed 1,016 lives in Italy, officials say, but Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio says he hopes his country will be the first in Europe to get over the emergency.

Another 188 people died over 24 hours.

However, Mr Di Maio told the BBC the measures imposed in the first area of the outbreak were proving effective.

Two weeks after the first 10 towns in northern Italy were declared a “red zone” and put under lockdown, he said they had no new infections.

This then served as a model to tighten measures across the country.

Italy has now seen 1,016 deaths, amid a total number 15,113 infections. Civil protection officials say 1,258 have recovered, although the number of cases has gone up by 2,651 since Wednesday. Italy is the world’s worst-hit country after China.

“Italy was the first nation in Europe to be affected so badly,” said Mr Di Maio. “But I hope it also means that Italy is the first one to leave the emergency behind.”

Movement has been limited to urgent medical or professional need. All shops are now closed, except for pharmacies and those stocking food; companies have been ordered to shut non-essential departments; a wide range of venues – from theatres to schools and hairdressers to museums – are closed.

“Our grandfathers were drafted to go to war; we’re being asked to stay at home,” said Mr Di Maio.

“If a doctor and a nurse can work for 24 hours non-stop, we can give up leaving our own home. The huge majority of citizens are respecting the rules. Those who aren’t will face sanctions: either fines or criminal charges.”

Italian authorities say it could take two weeks for the impact of the restrictions to be seen on the coronavirus outbreak nationwide, which is still surging in towns and cities outside the initial red zone.

It is placing exceptional strain on Italy’s healthcare system – one of the best in Europe.

The government has named a new commissioner to deal with the virus, Domenico Arcuri. He will co-ordinate the programme to resupply hospitals with equipment they urgently need.

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