• Italy has the second highest number of coronavirus cases after China
  • On Sunday, Italy announced that it will impose a lockdown that will affect millions
  • Other European countries may have to impose aggressive measures such as Italy's

Italy has the second highest number of confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 after China. In response, Italy is imposing a quarantine that will place millions of people in northern Italy under lockdown.

Will other countries follow Italy’s footsteps?

Italy Quarantine

Early on Sunday, March 8, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signed a decree that will place over 16 million people in northern Italy under quarantine. The lockdown will affect the entire Lombardy region as well as 14 other provinces, which means that a quarter of Italy’s entire population will be on lockdown.

The move comes after Italy saw a sudden increase of coronavirus cases in just 24 hours, bringing the country’s cases up to 7,375 and the number of deaths to 366 by Sunday, March 8.

Apart from the lockdown, Italy has also shut down schools and universities, bars, cinemas and theaters, sports events and even activities such as funerals and religious ceremonies.

Following Italy’s Footsteps

According to Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, it is only a matter of time before other European countries will follow Italy’s drastic containment measures.

“It will be important to decide which steps to take when. You can close schools for one or two weeks and this is urgently necessary in Italy,” Kurz said. “It will happen in other European countries. The decisive question is when to do it.”

The dilemma, according to Kurz, is how to impose drastic measures without causing too much economic damage. For instance, in Italy's case, the lockdown would affect regions around Venice as well as its financial capital, Milan.

For now, Austria, which has 104 confirmed cases, is conducting spot checks at its Italian border and is temporarily banning flights to northern Italy, Iran, and South Korea. Austrian Airlines also imposed a ban on flights to China until April 24.

Global Outbreak

Worldwide, countries have been imposing their own measures amid the rising number of coronavirus cases. In response to the confirmed cases surpassing 100,000, the World Health Organization (WHO) called on all the countries to continue the efforts that have been slowing the spread of the virus.

“Allowing uncontrolled spread should not be a choice of any government, as it will harm not only the citizens of that country but affect other countries as well,” WHO said in a statement. “Leaders at all levels and in all walks of life must step forward to bring about this commitment across society.”

Whether other countries will follow Italy's drastic measures remains to be seen but, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described Italy's moves as "bold" and "courageous" steps in the efforts to protect their country as well as the rest of the world.

After China and Italy, South Korea has the third highest number of confirmed cases with 7,313, followed by Iran with 6,566, France with 1,126 and Germany with 1,040.

Movement will be strictly limited in and out of large areas of northern Italy in an attempt to halt the spread of the deadly coronavirus
Movement will be strictly limited in and out of large areas of northern Italy in an attempt to halt the spread of the deadly coronavirus AFP / ANDREA PATTARO