Thousands of Italians in the country’s coronavirus quarantine zone tried to flee the area once news of the plan leaked, Business Insider reports. Many of those who fled the region may themselves be carriers of the deadly virus.
As Business Insider reports, Italy has been hit harder by the coronavirus than any other country in Europe, where over 360 people have died and over 7,300 have been infected, as of this writing.
In an effort to clamp down on the spread of the virus, the Italian government has quarantined large swaths of the northern part of the country, effectively placing 16 million people on lockdown.
However, it appears that news of the plan was somehow leaked to the general public by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera before it was announced by the Italian government, and thousands of people attempted to flee the region before the rules went into effect. Some are believed to have fled to regions in southern Italy that are not quarantined; others are believed to have fled Italy entirely.
Officials in the Italian government are furious.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called the leak “unacceptable.”
“This news created uncertainty, insecurity, and confusion, and we cannot tolerate this,” he said.
Similarly, Michele Emiliano, the president of Puglia, chastised his people for spreading the virus.
“You are carrying into the lungs of your brothers and sisters, your grandparents, uncles, cousins, parents the virus that folded the health system of Northern Italy,” he said.
Emiliano praised those who decided to stay in the quarantined zone, saying they did so “out of responsibility and out of love towards their loved ones and their land.”
Meanwhile, microbiology professor Roberto Burioni noted that the Italian government’s plan to quarantine much of the country’s north had the opposite effect of what they were hoping for.
Just how bad life is in the quarantined zone depends largely on whom you ask.
Officially, those in the zone aren’t required to stay in their homes and can come and go as they please throughout the zone, with certain restrictions. Bars and restaurants must keep patrons a minimum distance apart, for example, and schools and universities are closed until further notice. Weddings and funerals are also canceled until further notice.
However, Walter Ricciardi of the World Health Organization called Italy’s measures “extreme” and said that he’s never heard of such steps being taken in a democratic country.
As of this writing, coronavirus has sickened over 110,000 people worldwide and has claimed over 3,800 lives.