The Italian government on Sunday enacted sweeping measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, imposing restrictions on mobility and assembly in the Lombardy region and nearby provinces, including the cities of Milan, Venice and Modena.
"I just signed the new decree," said Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in a tweet.
The government decree said the Lombardy region's population of 10 million should avoid movement within the region except in cases of "proven occupational needs," such as medical staff and health reasons.
Other areas targeted by the measures include the provinces of Alessandria, Asti, Modena, Novara, Padua, Parma, Piacenza, Pesaro and Urbino, Reggio Emilia, Rimini, Treviso, Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, Vercelli and Venice.
The decree instructed businesses to implement smart working processes to allow employees to work from home. All schools, museums, night clubs, gyms and swimming pools are to be closed. Civil and religious ceremonies, including funerals, are to be suspended.
Bars and restaurants would be permitted to open from 06:00 to 18:00 local time (0500 to 1700 UTC) as long as they could ensure a minimum distance of 1 meter (3 feet, 3 inches) between clients.
The measures are to remain in place until April 3. Those who violate the restrictions could face fines and up to three months in jail.
'We will win'
The measures come on the heels of a major surge in new cases of the novel coronavirus in Italy, one of the hardest-hit countries outside of epicenter China.
Civil Protection Agency chief Angelo Borrelli said the number of cases in Italy reached 5,883 on Saturday. Borrelli urged citizens to adhere to public health recommendations, including routinely washing one's hands.
"We will win this battle if our citizens adopt a responsible attitude and change their way of living," said Borrelli.
The coronavirus death toll in Italy had risen to 233, he added. Those who died due to complications from contracting the virus were on average above the age of 80, predominantly male and had two or more underlying health issues.