Italians pack into supermarkets while police roam the streets

Tourist spots stand empty while panic-buying Italians queue down the streets to get food and police go on patrol telling people to stay inside as country’s coronavirus lockdown begins

  • Italian PM Giuseppe Conte expanded quarantine to Italy’s entire 60million population as the death toll hit 463
  • Tourist sites including Milan shopping galleries and Rome’s Spanish Steps were nearly deserted this morning
  • Shoppers crammed into supermarkets with queues stretching because of compulsory 3ft gap between them 
  • Police were patrolling the streets of Naples with a loudhailer last night to warn people to ‘stay indoors’
  • Doctors are urged to consider age and survival chances when allocating beds in intensive care units

Italian streets and piazzas were empty today while shoppers crammed into supermarkets to stock up for a lengthy quarantine as the country began an unprecedented nationwide lockdown. 

Tourist favourites including Milan’s shopping galleries, Rome’s Spanish Steps and Vatican’s St Peter’s Square were all but deserted today after the drastic coronavirus measures were extended to the entire country last night.  

Panic-buyers were packing into supermarkets this morning with queues stretching outside because of a rule that demands a 3ft gap between shoppers – meaning only a limited number can go inside at once. 

In Naples, police were roaming the streets with a loudhailer last night to warn people to ‘stay indoors, avoid unnecessary outings and avoid crowded places’ because of the ‘coronavirus emergency’.  

Prime minister Giuseppe Conte declared last night that ‘everyone must give up something to protect the health of citizens’ with 9,000 virus cases confirmed in Italy and 463 people dead.  

Anyone with a fever has been ordered to stay indoors with travel banned except in emergencies and public gatherings including weddings, funerals and sports fixtures shut down.  

The virus is spreading so quickly that doctors are now having to make life-or-death decisions about who gets access to intensive care.  

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan – one of the city’s famous shopping galleries – is nearly deserted today with Italy beginning an unprecedented nationwide lockdown to tackle the coronavirus outbreak 

Pigeons are the only crowd in sight in Milan’s Piazza del Duomo today, usually a tourist hotspot. The Duomo cathedral was already closed because of the coronavirus outbreak 

A police car is parked near the Spanish Steps in Rome, which are usually a popular place for tourists to sit but are nearly deserted today because of the quarantine 

Two people look at a deserted St Peter’s Square in the Vatican today after the quarantine was extended to the whole of Italy 

A nearly empty car park at a deserted shopping centre in Turin this morning, in northern Italy at the centre of the outbreak

Customers keep a 3ft distance between them – as Italians have been urged to do by the new quarantine rules – while lining up to enter a post office in Rome this morning

Italians pack supplies of groceries into overloaded shopping trolleys at a supermarket in Rome this morning as they prepare for a weeks-long quarantine after Italy’s lockdown was extended nationwide 

A crowd of people with shopping trolleys, some of them wearing masks, gather outside a supermarket in Rome this morning

Panic-buying: People cram into a supermarket in Rome this morning, some of them wearing face masks, after Italy expanded its drastic quarantine measures nationwide 

People queue with trolleys outside a 24-hour supermarket in Rome in the early hours of this morning following the lockdown

People queue for groceries at a supermarket in Rome last night, with the unprecedented quarantine due to last until April 3

The Pope celebrates Mass in an empty chapel this morning, a week after the 83-year-old pontiff cancelled a series of events over health fears 

Prime minister Giuseppe Conte said last night’s decree could be ‘summarised as follows: I stay at home’. 

Here are the rules under the new decree. 


People who have tested positive for coronavirus must not leave their homes for any reason. 

Anyone with a fever or respiratory symptoms is urged to stay at home and limit social contact, including with their doctor. 


Travel is only allowed for ‘urgent, verifiable work situations and emergencies or health reasons’. Grocery shopping is considered a ‘necessity’ and still allowed. 

To avoid work-related travel, public and private companies have been urged to put their staff on leave. 

However, it was not immediately clear how the new measures would be enforced. Trains and numerous flights continued to operate into and out of Milan on Monday despite the earlier restrictions in Lombardy. 

Public transport will remain operational, but Conte says he wants as many people as possible to stay at home. 

People who do want to travel will need to fill in a document explaining their reasons for doing so and carry it with them. 

If they are found to have lied they face fines or jail terms. But they will generally work on an honour system.  

People will also be allowed to travel to return home.  


‘All forms of gatherings in public places or sites open to the public’ are banned, the decree says.  

Cinemas, museums, theatres, pubs, dance schools, betting shops and discos are all closed. Weddings and funerals are banned. Schools and universities will remain shut until April 3. 

Bars and restaurants were only allowed to open between 8am and 6pm, the decree said, and only if a distance of at least 3ft could be kept between customers.  

Sporting events of all levels and disciplines were cancelled – stopping play in the Serie A football league. Fixtures in international competitions can go ahead but will be played behind closed doors.  

Gyms, sports centres, swimming pools, spas and leisure centres must close.  


Shops can remain open but only if they can guarantee the 3ft safety distance for customers. 

Big and mid-sized shopping centres have to close at the weekend. Food stores are allowed to remain open at all hours. 


Leave for health workers is cancelled. People accompanying their friends or relatives to emergency units are not allowed to stay with them in the waiting rooms without express permission. 


The entire country, including the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, is covered by the decree – covering a total population of some 60million people. 

Italian health officials had warned on Saturday that the northern Lombardy region was starting to run out of hospital beds for its intensive care patients. 

The government also began to recall retired doctors as part of an effort to quickly bolster the health service with 20,000 staff. 

Ethics rules call on doctors to consider a patient’s age and their chance of survival when allocating hospital beds. 

The Italian society of anesthesiology and intensive care has published 15 ethical recommendations to consider for doctors when deciding on admissions. 

The criteria include the patient’s age and the likelihood of survival, and not just ‘first come first served.’ 

‘It’s a reasoning that our colleagues make,’ Dr. Guido Giustetto, head of the association of doctors in northern Piedmont, said yesterday. 

‘It becomes dramatic if, rather than doing it under normal situations, they do it because the beds are so scarce that someone might not have access to medical care.’   

Italy expanded its quarantine measures to all 60million people in the country last night after a lockdown in the hardest-hit north, including Milan and Venice, had failed to slow the outbreak.  

‘Our habits must be changed, changed now. We all have to give up something for the good of Italy,’ prime minister Conte said. 

‘When I speak of Italy, I speak of our dear ones, of our grandparents and of our parents,’ he said. 

‘We will succeed only if we all collaborate and we adapt right away to these more stringent norms.’ 

Conte also raged at young people who had continued to gather socially as the virus spread, saying ‘this night life … we can’t allow this any more.’  

The nationwide restrictions mean that all schools and universities will remain closed until April 3, with cafes, pubs and eateries ordered to close until dusk. 

Italians have been ordered not to move around the country except for work and emergencies, with public gatherings and football matches cancelled. 

The streets of Rome were much quieter than normal this morning, with cars moving freely under a clear blue sky in the normally traffic-clogged centre. 

Rome commuters could easily find seats in the usually jam-packed underground system during the morning rush hour today. 

In Milan, checkpoints were set up at the city’s central railway station to screen travellers for the first time. People at the station were required to sign a police form, self-certifying why they were traveling. 

‘Until a few days ago, the thinking was the alarm would pass in some weeks, we just need to follow the rules. Now we need to explain to citizens that the situation is very, very serious, our hospitals are at the point of collapse,’ the mayor of the Lombardy city of Bergamo, Giorgio Gori, told RAI state television. 

Following Italy’s lead, the UK government has now advised Britons against all but essential travel to the country. 

Airports remain open and Britons can return from Italy without restriction, but are being urged to self-isolate for 14 days when they arrive back in the UK. 

Malta has stopped all travel links with Italy, its nearest neighbour and main source of food and other essentials.  

Meanwhile, payments on mortgages will be suspended across the whole of Italy, the country’s deputy economy minister said today in the latest effort to manage the economic impact of the crisis. 

‘Yes, that will be the case, for individuals and households,’ Laura Castelli said in an interview with Radio Anch’io, when asked about the possibility.

Italy’s banking lobby ABI said yesterday that most lenders would offer debt moratoriums to small firms and households grappling with the economic fallout.

The government has also drawn up plans for an economic stimulus and has led calls for the EU to loosen budget rules to tackle the crisis. 

On Monday, the Milan stock exchange dropped over 11 per cent and Italy’s borrowing costs shot up, reviving fears that an economy already struggling under the eurozone’s second-heaviest debt pile could be plunged into crisis.

Industry minister Stefano Patuanelli said today that the government would approve measures worth around 10 billion euros. Conte has already promised ‘massive shock therapy’ to help deal with the immediate impact.   

A man wearing a protective face mask walks next to the Trevi fountain in Rome this morning – an area usually full of tourists 

A nun walks past a deserted St Peter’s Square in Vatican City this morning, with the quarantine now extended southwards

Customers line up to go shopping at a supermarket in Rome today, pushing trolleys to stock up for a lengthy quarantine 

Warning: Authorities were roaming around Naples last night (pictured) with a loudhailer that told people to stay indoors because of the ‘coronavirus emergency’

People wearing masks buy groceries at a supermarket in Italy today with people stocking up for a lengthy quarantine 

Pigeons are the only large group of visitors on the Piazza del Duomo in Milan this morning, next to the cathedral which had already been closed because of the coronavirus outbreak 

The Vittorio Emanuele II shopping gallery in Milan – usually full of tourists – is almost empty on Tuesday morning 

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte during a press conference at Chigi Palace in Rome last night where he announced the latest quarantine measures 

Doctors work at a hospital in Schiavonia in northern Italy with more than 9,000 coronavirus cases now confirmed in the country in the worst outbreak outside China and South Korea 

Shoppers stock up on food in Rome this morning as they prepare for a quarantine which is due to last until at least April 3 

A view of the mostly deserted Via Dante pedestrian street in central Milan this morning 

Footage showed long queues of panic-buyers with shopping trolleys outside 24-hour supermarkets in Rome and Naples

A cyclist shows his paperwork during police and military checks at the central station in Milan yesterday – with all three people wearing masks 

Pope urges priests to visit patients as he holds live-streamed Mass by himself

Pope Francis today urged Catholic priests to visit people suffering from coronavirus despite a ban on most travel across Italy.

Francis prayed that clergymen would ‘have the courage to go out and go to the sick people’ as he celebrated Mass by himself at the Vatican this morning. 

The service in the chapel of Francis’ residence was live-streamed by the Vatican today, with the 83-year-old pontiff avoiding public gatherings.   

‘Let us pray to the Lord also for our priests, that they may have the courage to go out and go to the sick people bringing the strength of God’s word and the Eucharist and accompany the health workers and volunteers in this work that they are doing,’ Francis said. 

Francis also prayed for Italy’s thousands of sick patients and the doctors and nurses who are caring for them in his homily today. 

His service today, held in the chapel of the Santa Marta guest house where he lives, came just hours after Italy extended its quarantine measures to the whole country.  

The pope last week cancelled a series of events after suffering from a cold during an Ash Wednesday service. 

Fears were raised after Francis was pictured hugging and kissing members of the public after speaking with a hoarse voice and blowing his nose in church. 

However, the pontiff is thought to have tested negative for coronavirus last week. 

He resumed some private meetings yesterday, including with bishops from France and two departing ambassadors.  

Italy registered 1,807 more confirmed cases as of Monday evening, for a national total of 9,172. 

The number of dead in Italy also increased by 97 to 463 – most of them elderly with previous ailments. 

It comes with China beginning to scale down its virus operation, closing the temporary hospitals which sprung up in Wuhan where the outbreak began in December last year.  

‘Now that the virus has a foothold in so many countries, the threat of a pandemic has become very real,’ WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

But he welcomed Italy’s tough measures, noting that just four countries – China, South Korea, Italy and Iran – accounted for 93 per cent of cases worldwide. 

‘It would be the first pandemic that could be controlled,’ Tedros added. ‘The bottom line is we are not at the mercy of the virus.’    

The Lombardy government has been scrambling to increase its intensive care capacity, converting operating and recovery rooms into isolated wards. 

It has cobbled together 150 more beds in the last two weeks and expects another 150 in the coming week.

‘Unfortunately we’re only at the beginning,’ said Dr. Massimo Galli, head of infectious disease at Milan’s Sacco hospital. 

Speaking to SkyTg24, Galli said the numbers of infections registered in Lombardy last week were similar to those in Wuhan, China in late January.

Galli noted that Wuhan, the center of China’s outbreak that infected more than 80,000 people nationwide, is a concentrated metropolis of 11 million and Lombardy is spread out. 

But the numbers ‘tell you that the diffusion is a real possibility,’ he warned.  

Pope Francis gathers his thoughts during a live-streamed Mass at his Vatican guest house today, which he celebrated alone 

Francis holds up a Communion wafer during his solitary Mass at the Vatican this morning where he urged priests to visit coronavirus sufferers 

A soldier holds his gun near the Duomo cathedral in Milan this morning with the whole of Italy now in lockdown 

A largely deserted road in Milan today, although a tram is still running – with public transport continuing to operate 

A masked man checks a person’s paperwork at Milan central station yesterday 

A supermarket worker wearing a protective face mask is pictured through a window in Naples

Italy suspends mortgage payments in the wake of coronavirus outbreak’s economic impact 

Payments on mortgages will be suspended across the whole of Italy after the coronavirus outbreak, the country’s deputy economy minister said today.

‘Yes, that will be the case, for individuals and households,’ Laura Castelli said in an interview with Radio Anch’io, when asked about the possibility.

Italy’s banking lobby ABI has said that lenders representing 90 per cent of total banking assets would offer debt moratoriums to small firms and households grappling with the economic fallout.

The news comes as Italy announced that it had doubled the amount it plans to spend on tackling its coronavirus outbreak to £6.5billion and is raising this year’s deficit goal to 2.5 per cent of national output from the current 2.2 per cent target.  

Speaking to La Repubblica, prime minister Conte yesterday vowed a course of ‘massive shock therapy’ to aid the Italian economy after much of its industrial and business heartland was shut down. 

The Milan stock market, which was already down some 17 per cent since the outbreak in northern Italy, plunged at Monday’s opening, with the blue chip FTMIB index down 11 per cent. 

Matching similar calls from France, Conte said strict European Union borrowing limits should be loosened to allow more room for manoeuvre, and that the flexibility envisaged by the EU’s budget rules should be used ‘in full’.    

‘Europe cannot think of confronting an extraordinary situation with ordinary measures,’ he said. 

The European Commission told Italy on Saturday that its planned extra spending in response to the outbreak would not be counted in measuring its compliance with EU budget rules.  

‘The economic measures in the works will be vigorous, commensurate to current needs, but temporary,’ the economy ministry said, adding that Italy remained committed to reducing its debt as soon as possible.  

Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said: ‘The recent extension of Covid-19 controls in Italy represent one of the most rigorous country-wide control measures implemented in the last 50 years.

‘Whilst we have seen in Wuhan that such intensive social distancing can bring the epidemic under control, it is far from clear how long this may need to be maintained in the Italian context.

‘Unlike the situation in Wuhan where there was the possibility that the global epidemic could be prevented, Covid-19 is already spreading globally. So when the restrictions in Italy are eased there may still be a large number of cases in nearby countries that could lead to spread back into Italy.

‘Would this degree of restriction be appropriate for the UK? Probably not as we are currently seeing a much more gradual increase in numbers and these are already distributed throughout the UK, unlike the situation in Italy where cases were concentrated in a single region.

‘More rigorous social distancing measures are likely to be implemented in the UK over coming days or weeks as case numbers increase. But the timing of their introduction will be chosen to hopefully maximise the benefit whilst minimising the harm to British society.’  

Lazio, the region surrounding the capital Rome, saw its cases jump from 87 to 102 in a day, a sign that the virus was propagating far from the northern concentrations. 

Also alarming was Italy’s high fatality rate: With 463 dead and 9,172 infected, Italy’s fatality rate is running at five per cent, higher than the 3-4 per cent elsewhere.  

Dr Giovanni Rezza, head of infectious disease at the National Institutes of Health, attributed it to the fact that Italy has the world’s oldest population after Japan. 

The median age of Italy’s virus-related dead is 80.

But some younger people have also been in intensive care, including the first person to test positive in the north who had not been to China. 

The 38-year-old Unilever worker named Mattia came to be known in Italy as Patient No 1.

At the San Matteo hospital in Pavia, there was a sigh of relief after Mattia began breathing on his own Monday with just a small amount of oxygen assistance. 

He was moved out of intensive care to a sub-ICU unit and was speaking with doctors.

‘This disease has a long life,’ intensive care chief Dr Francesco Mojoli told RAI state television. 

‘Now we hope that the fact that he was young and in good shape will help him get back to his normal life.’  

The nearly deserted Corso Venezia street in Milan this morning, with northern Italy at the centre of the outbreak 

A waitress in Milan looks on by a sign advising clients to keep their distance from each other, under Italy’s new quarantine rules

This picture shows the Via Dante and Cordusio metro station in Milan today with only a handful of people walking around 

A woman stands by a stall at Campo dei Fiori open-air market, in Rome, after the lockdown was extended from the north 

A man wearing a respiratory mask shops at a fruit and vegetable market in Rome on Tuesday morning 

A long line of shoppers queueing with trolleys at a supermarket after last night’s announcement

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