23.03.2020 Europe

Italians warned not to lower their guard despite slight drop in Covid-19 cases

By Sabina Castelfranco - RFI
Remo Casilli/Reuters
LISTEN MAR 23, 2020
Remo Casilli/Reuters

Italian authorities have expressed cautious optimism in the fight against the spread of coronavirus as national figures showed a slight drop in the number of deaths and in the number of confirmed cases. Despite this, further restrictions have been put in place.

The head of Italy's top health council Franco Locatelli said "we do not want to get over enthusiastic or overestimate a trend" and warned Italians not to lower their guard and continue to respect the rules.

Authorities and doctors said the next two weeks will be very important to understand whether this downward trend holds and  whether Italians can start moving towards a less restrictive life.

Highest death toll
The death toll from Covid-19 on Monday stood at 5,476, the highest recorded by any country in the world while the number of confirmed cases reached 59,138, second only to China.

At the moment, only people who have to leave their homes for work or health reasons or for an emergency, are allowed to venture out with certification that must be produced at police checks. Everyone else must stay indoors.

One month after the first registered death in the country from coronavirus, Italy tightened restrictions again.

With a new decree effective immediately, the government Sunday announced a ban on all internal travel except for work purposes.

Internal travel banned
People can no longer move from one area of the country to another without a valid reason. The aim is to stop further spread of the virus from the north to the south of the country where health facilities are not as efficient.

The government's latest emergency decree also intensified the lockdown closing all non-essential businesses and industries across the country.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said Italy is facing its most difficult crisis since the Second World War. This after Italy registered almost 800 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours on Sunday.

Non essential commerce closed until 3 April
All activities across Italy that “are not strictly vital, crucial, and indispensable in providing us with all the necessary goods and services,” would be shuttered until April 3, the prime minister said.

“We are slowing down the country's production engine but we are not stopping it.”

Conte said food stores and supermarkets would remain open so there is no reason to rush for shopping or to create lines, which would be completely unjustified.

Pharmacies would also remain open, as would banks, post offices, insurances and finance services. He added that all essential public services like public transportation and gas stations would continue to be operational.

Protect life by respecting rules
Respecting all the rules, staying at home, according to Conte , is essential.

"This is the only way to safeguard ourselves and our loved ones." He added that "like never before, our community must come together like a chain to protect the most important need: life.".

While most of the country is following the tough restrictions introduced by the government, thousands of people have been fined for breaking the rules.

Italy at the weekend further intensified roadblocks in all major cities with soldiers and police officers stopping all cars to check on anyone who has left their home. 

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