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Canadians urged to avoid non-essential travel to Italy over coronavirus lockdown

COVID-19: Italy on lockdown as number of COVID-19 cases surges
WATCH: Italy on lockdown as number of COVID-19 cases surges

The Canadian government has updated its travel advisory for Italy, urging Canadians to avoid non-essential travel to the country as the novel coronavirus outbreak continues.

According to the advisory issued Monday evening, Canadians should avoid non-essential travel to Italy due to “movement restrictions put in place to control the spread of the coronavirus.”

Travel Canada had initially issued a travel advisory last week, which focused on the country’s northern provinces.

Coronavirus outbreak: ‘Our civic sense is the only thing that can save us’ says Italy resident as entire country locks down
Coronavirus outbreak: ‘Our civic sense is the only thing that can save us’ says Italy resident as entire country locks down

The updated advisory comes as Italy faced an unprecedented lockdown on Tuesday that left streets in the capital Rome and other cities deserted after the government extended a clampdown across the entire country in a bid to slow Europe’s worst outbreak of the coronavirus.

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READ MORE: Coronavirus — Italy extends lockdown to entire country as new COVID-19 cases surge

The updated advisory comes as Italy faced an unprecedented lockdown on Tuesday that left streets in the capital Rome and other cities deserted after the government extended a clampdown across the entire country in a bid to slow Europe’s worst outbreak of the coronavirus.

The measures, announced late on Monday by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, widen steps already taken in the rich northern region of Lombardy and parts of neighbouring provinces, restricting movement and banning public gatherings.

Coronavirus outbreak: Shoppers panic-buy at supermarket after Italy announces countrywide lockdown
Coronavirus outbreak: Shoppers panic-buy at supermarket after Italy announces countrywide lockdown

“The future of Italy is in our hands. Let us all do our part, by giving up something for our collective good,” Conte said in a tweet, encouraging people to take personal responsibility.

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The latest steps came after data showed the coronavirus outbreak continuing to spread, with 9,172 positive cases recorded as of Monday and 463 deaths, heavily concentrated in the prosperous northern regions of Lombardy, Emilia Romagna and Veneto.

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In Rome, cars circulated freely under a clear blue sky in the normally traffic-clogged centre and commuters could find seats in the usually packed underground system during rush hour.

Rome landmarks including the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps and St, Peter’s Square in the Vatican were closed or empty, with police telling tourists to return to their hotels.

COVID-19: Toronto man relocating to Italy, unsure of future travel plans amid coronavirus fears
COVID-19: Toronto man relocating to Italy, unsure of future travel plans amid coronavirus fears

For at least the next three weeks, people have been told to stay at home if possible, moving only for reasons of work, health needs or emergencies. Anyone travelling will have to carry a document declaring their reasons and schools and universities will remain closed.

Outdoor events, including sports fixtures, have been suspended, while bars and restaurants will have to close from 6 p.m. Shops are allowed to remain open as long as customers maintain a minimum distance of a metre between each other.

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“The whole of Italy is closed now,” was the headline in Corriere della Sera, the country’s largest circulation daily.

In the wake of the clampdown, neighbouring Austria said it would deny entry to people arriving from Italy, while British Airways cancelled all flights to and from the country.

The Canadian government on Monday updated its travel advisory, urging Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel to Italy due to the “movement restrictions put in place to control the spread of the coronavirus disease.”

Severe controls

The measures are some of the most severe controls imposed on a Western country since the Second World War and already there have been questions about how effectively they can be enforced across a country of 60 million people.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — Before, after images show impact of COVID-19 on world’s top tourist spots

Shortly after Conte announced them, shoppers in Rome rushed to late-night supermarkets to stock up on food and basic necessities, prompting the government to declare that supplies would be guaranteed and urging people not to panic-buy.

“You’ve also got the worry that the supermarkets will be emptied out of fear. If people keep over-buying there won’t be any water left,” said building superintendent Gianni, who like many Italians drinks bottled water.

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“They should make people do it with an identity card, with one case per family,” he said, refusing to give his surname.

COVID-19: 16 million people under lockdown in Italy
COVID-19: 16 million people under lockdown in Italy

In the financial capital Milan, already under stricter controls, the situation was similar, with many shops and businesses open but far fewer people than normal on the streets.

The World Health Organization has praised Italy‘s “aggressive” response to the crisis, since the first cases emerged near Milan almost three weeks ago, saying it could help contain the spread of the disease from its northern epicentre.

But the economic cost has been huge, with sectors from manufacturing to tourism reporting a collapse in orders that will impact for months to come.

READ MORE: Coronavirus in Italy — ‘Stringent’ rules, ‘confusion’ as residents describe lockdown

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

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The market recovered some ground on Tuesday, with the all-share index up almost three per cent in early trade.

Italy closes schools, universities as COVID-19 cases rise
Italy closes schools, universities as COVID-19 cases rise

Conte has already promised “massive shock therapy” to help deal with the immediate economic impact of the crisis, and on Tuesday, Industry Minister Stefano Patuanelli said the government would approve measures worth around 10 billion euros.

As well as pressing the European Union to relax its strict borrowing rules, he said the government was also working on temporarily suspending payments of bills, taxes and mortgages to ease pressure on small firms and households.

With files from Global News