The measure was one of several adopted by the government during an all-night cabinet meeting that came after the country reported a record 49 deaths on Friday.
Friday's death toll from the novel coronavirus was the highest of the two-week crisis and took Italy's fatalities total to 197 – the biggest outside China itself.
The outbreak in Italy has prompted authorities to close all schools until mid-March, and announce a 7.5 billion euro rescue plan to tackle the outbreak – with much of that money destined for the emergency services, the government said.
An unusuallyquiet street in central Rome on Friday. Photo: AFP
Meanwhile many areas usually filled with tourists are now quiet after many reportedly cancelled travel plans to the country amid virus fears.
The sharp drop in visitor numbers to Italy is wreaking havoc with the country's usually booming tourism industry ,and contributing to fears that the anaemic economy is about to tip back into recession.
- MAP: How different parts of Italy are affected by the coronavirus outbreak
But the government's most immediate concern is that COVID-19 infections that had been largely contained to pockets of the richer north will start spreading into the poorer and less medically equipped south.
The World Health Organization concluded a mission to Italy on Friday by recommending the government keep “a strong focus on containment measures”.
The government said its medical recruitment drive should help double the staff of hospitals' respiratory and infectious disease departments.
It should also increase the number of intensive care beds from 5,000 to 7,500 in the coming days.
The number of Italians receiving intensive care treatment for the COVID-19 disease reached 462 on Friday.
The total number of coronavirus infections grew to 4,636 on Friday.
The Vatican is also unrolling unprecedented health precautions designed to keep the tiny city state's 450 mostly elderly residents safe, after the first COVID-19 infection was recorded at one of its clinics on Thursday.