The Italian government has placed 16m people in quarantine overnight as the number of coronavirus cases increased by 1,247 in just 24 hours.
The wealthy Lombardy region along with 14 provinces in four other regions were placed in lockdown affecting over a quarter of Italians until 3 April.
Late Saturday night prime minister Giuseppe Conte signed the unprecedented decree which also includes the closure of schools, gyms, museums, nightclubs and other venues across the whole country.
On early Sunday morning Conte said, “We want to guarantee the health of our citizens. We understand that these measures will impose sacrifices, sometimes small and sometimes very big.”
Restrictions apply to 14 provinces; Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia, Rimini, Pesaro and Urbino, Alessandria, Asti, Novara, Verbano Cusio Ossola, Vercelli, Padua, Treviso and Venice.
The Lombardy region in northern Italy is home to 10m people and Milan is the main city in the region.
Conte added, “There will be no movement in or out of these areas, or within them, unless for proven, e work-related reasons emergencies or health reasons.
“We are facing an emergency, a national emergency. We have to limit the spread of the virus and prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed.”
The total number of coronavirus cases in the country soared to 5,883 and a further 36 people also died, taking the total number of deaths to 233 across Italy.