Italy has made the astonishing decision to quarantine most of the country's northern region in a move that will lockdown around a quarter of the population. The measures come as the coronavirus continues to ravage through the nation, making it the second-hardest hit in terms of fatalities, outside of China.
According to The New York Times, the decision was announced early Sunday in an emergency 2:00 a.m. news conference. The terms demand that no one in the affected regions can leave, with the threat of three months in prison or a heavy fine for those that disobey the rule.
"We are facing an emergency," said Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in defending the extraordinary measures. "A national emergency."
In addition to a restriction on travel, funerals and cultural events have been banned. Though restaurants, churches, and supermarkets remain open, the new measures require all individuals to be at least three feet apart at the venues. Those with fevers have also been asked not to leave their homes.
"This is the moment of self-responsibility," Conte added.
Italy currently has close to 6,000 infected coronavirus patients, the highest number in Europe. In the past 24 hours alone, cases increased by 1,247 -- which was likely the catalyst for the new implementations. The number of deaths from the virus is currently 233.
Though some have praised the strident measures taken by the prime minister, others have voiced their criticism.
Many police officers and officials in regional governments have claimed that there was no forewarning of the new laws, meaning that authorities are now scrambling to implement the measures without much background or help.
For example, Luca Zaia, the president of the Veneto region, lamented that the ban was given to officials "at the last minute."
Zaia added that the region -- which includes Venice -- would not be able to implement the ban in the time frame desired by the prime minister.
"It's literally impossible," he said.
In addition, economic experts have expressed their worries about the financial repercussions of the measure, as the regions affected by the announcement make up a majority of the economic force behind the country. For example, the northern area of Lombardy has now been shut down, despite being Italy's most economically productive region -- accounting for almost a quarter of the nation's G.D.P.
If "the measures go beyond April, the situation will become systemic and the damage serious," warned Matteo Caroli, a professor of business management at Luiss Guido Carli University in Rome.
Caroli is not the first financial expert to warn about the economic impact of the epidemic. Another study warned that the crisis could shrink global G.D.P. by as much as $9.2 trillion. The paper also estimated that the virus could claim as many as 68 million lives around the globe, as was previously reported by The Inquisitr.