‘These are the riskiest weeks’: Italy’s PM calls for EU unity on coronavirus

'These are the riskiest weeks': Italy's PM calls for EU unity on coronavirus
'Come on everyone, stay at home': Italy was the first EU country to impose a nationwide quarantine because of the coronavirus. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte warned on Monday that his country was entering "the riskiest weeks" and urged a coordinated European response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“European coordination on health and economic measures is needed,” Conte told the Corriere della Sera newspaper ahead of a planned videoconference on Monday between Group of Seven (G7) leaders.

“It is time for courageous choices and Italy can offer a significant contribution as the country that was the first in Europe to have have experienced such a wide spread of the virus,” he said.

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Italy was the first EU member state to shutter schools and almost all businesses to try to slow a global pandemic that has killed 1,809 people in the Mediterranean country since last month.

It has recorded more than half the deaths officially reported outside China.

Conte said “no new prohibitions are needed” but urged everyone to stay home as much as possible and only venture outside alone.

“Scientists tell us that we have not yet reached the peak. These are the riskiest weeks and we need the utmost precaution,” said Conte.

READ ALSO: 'You must learn from Italy's mistakes', health expert warns Europe


A health worker outside an emergency structure set up outside a hospital in the town of Brescia, in Lombardy. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Italy is facing two simultaneous threats to its healthcare system.

World-class hospitals in the richer north where the overwhelming majority of the deaths and infections have been reported are running out of beds and relying on overstretched staff.

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But Conte fears that medical centres in the poorer south which has largely avoided contagion will be unable to cope should it be hit just as hard.

“We can no longer afford behavioural errors,” said Conte. “Things like people leaving Milan on weekends to spend time with their family or at their residences in the south must absolutely stop.”

The virus “is our most important challenge of the past decades,” Conte said.

Find all The Local's coverage of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy here.


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