Watch CBS News

Italy imposes unprecedented lockdown to fight coronavirus: "We have run out of time"

Italy imposes mass coronavirus quarantine
Italy imposes nationwide coronavirus quarantine 02:49

In a desperate effort to fight the spread of coronavirus, Italy expanded its quarantine to include the entire country of 60 million people until next month, the country's prime minister announced Monday. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte quoted Winston Churchill in describing the situation, calling it Italy's "darkest hour."

The country has suffered the most deaths from the coronavirus outside of China. There are more than 9,000 reported cases and 463 people have died.

The lockdown is the most restriction on movement in the country since World War II.

"We have run out of time," Conte said in a national address. "We're having a growth in infection and deaths ... the whole of Italy will become a protected zone."

The announcement triggered a rash of panic buying in Rome, as shoppers in masks swarmed supermarkets.

Life under lockdown means travel across Italy is severely restricted and all public gatherings are strictly forbidden. Employees should work from home or they will be asked to prove to police why they're not. Restaurants and shops will shut their doors after dusk, and the shutdown of schools and universities across the country remains in effect.

Violators risk up to three months in jail or fines of $225.

Officials in the hardest hit northern region, which has been under quarantine since Sunday, said hospitals are "on the verge of collapse." 

Giorgio Penna, an 88-year-old man with pre-existing conditions, said he's been stuck inside his house since the original shutdown.

Asked if he was scared, he told CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata he is. 

"Who is not scared about dying? Everybody is scared about dying," he said. 

There are some reassuring signs that extreme measures like this lockdown appear to work. Across some of the the northern zones where quarantines have been in place for a couple of weeks, the number of cases is going down.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.