Italy is now facing its biggest crisis since World War Two. The government has pledged to spend €25 billion ($28 billion) to tackle it – three times more than it estimated it would need just a week ago. The economy is now expected to slide into deep recession.
However, the foreign minister sounded a note of optimism, with a message to the international community that “Italy will make it and Europe will make it – I’m sure”.
He offered to share the experience and knowledge that the Italian government had built up since the outbreak began with any country that needed it.
Italy has now seen 1,016 deaths, amid a total number 15,113 infections. Civil protection officials say 1,258 have recovered, although the number of cases has gone up by 2,651 since March 11. Italy is the world’s worst-hit country after China.
Countries across the world have grounded flights to Italy or banned entry to Italians or anyone travelling from Italy. Austria and Slovenia are placing restrictions on their borders with Italy.
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Italian nationals living in other countries have also reported individual acts of hostility towards them, deplored by the foreign minister as “unacceptable discrimination”, prompting “interventions” from his government.
A handful of politicians here have been infected with the virus or are in preventative self-isolation, including the leader of the Democratic Party, part of the governing coalition.
Italian authorities say it could take two weeks for the impact of the restrictions to be seen on the coronavirus outbreak nationwide, which is still surging in towns and cities outside the initial red zone.
It is placing exceptional strain on Italy’s healthcare system – one of the best in Europe.
The government has named a new commissioner to deal with the virus, Domenico Arcuri. He will co-ordinate the program to resupply hospitals with equipment they urgently need.