Fines threatened and police called in to enforce coronavirus quarantine across northern Italy

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Fines threatened and police called in to enforce coronavirus quarantine across northern Italy

The Italian government has put in place drastic new measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, with travelling to or from several cities in the county’s north now effectively banned without a permit.


Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the “extraordinary measures” were needed to prevent the further spread of the virus. 

Conte however said he would not take the step of suspending the Schengen agreement, saying such a move would be disproportionate. 

The Schengen agreement removes border controls between participating European states. 

The number of people in Italy infected with the coronavirus is now more than 130. 

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Conte said the restrictions would apply to 12 towns in the northern regions of Veneto and Lombardy. Around 50,000 people are impacted by the ban. 

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Conte said nobody would be permitted to enter or leave the areas without special permission and promised to use the police and potentially the armed forces to ensure the ban was upheld. 

Although authorities are confident the measures will halt the spread, there have been cases of the virus across Italy including in the capital Rome. 

Rising infections

On early Sunday afternoon, blockades were still not yet erected, and cars could be seen driving in and around the area of Codogno and Casalpusterlengo, although police cars patrolled the area.

It was not clear how authorities would impose the travel restrictions and whether residents would still be allowed to travel from town to town within the affected zones, without surpassing an outer limit.

"We're preparing to set up the checkpoints for the containment zone," a policewoman told AFP, saying that intially the perimeter would be narrow but could widen over time.

"We're about ten criminal police teams here, so nothing related to this kind of situation, but we've been called in from Bologna, Turin and Genoa to give a hand," she added.

For now, the quarantine appears to be largely dependent on individuals to respect the system but the government said those found in violation could face fines and even three months in jail.

The government has also said the army was prepared to step in if needed to enforce the perimeter.

On Sunday, the head of the civil protection department, Angelo Borrelli, said during a press conference that thousands of beds were at the ready in military barracks or hotels to house quarantined or sick individuals, if needed.

The number of those infected with the virus had now grown to 132, including the two people who died, Borrelli said.

Three Italian Serie A football matches postponed over coronavirus fears 

Italian authorities have ordered the postponement of three Serie A football matches on Sunday over coronavirus fears in northern Italy. 

The matches between title-chasing Inter Milan and Sampdoria, Atalanta against Sassuolo and Hellas Verona versus Cagliari have been pushed back to avoid the spread of the virus with 79 confirmed cases in an outbreak that has claimed two lives in the country.



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