|29 March, 2020

Italy to extend lockdown beyond April 3 - minister

Italy has suffered the most deaths from the virus epidemic

A member of the medical staff in a protective suit treats a patient suffering from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in an intensive care unit at the San Raffaele hospital in Milan, Italy, March 27, 2020.

A member of the medical staff in a protective suit treats a patient suffering from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in an intensive care unit at the San Raffaele hospital in Milan, Italy, March 27, 2020.

REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

ROME- Italy's government will "inevitably" extend beyond April 3 the containment measures it had approved to stem the coronavirus outbreak in the country, the regional affairs minister said on Sunday.

Italy has suffered the most deaths from the virus epidemic and was the first Western country to introduce severe restrictions on movement after uncovering the outbreak just over five weeks ago.

The government has since increasingly tightened them and these were initially expected to be softened from next Friday. "The measures that were due on April 3 will inevitably be extended," Francesco Boccia said in an interview with SkyTG24.

He added that the timings would be decided by the Prime Minister and the cabinet "on the grounds of the data of the scientific community" advising his government.

"I think that it would be inappropriate and irresponsible to talk of re-opening (schools, stores and production sites)," Boccia said.

The death toll from the coronavirus in Italy surged past 10,000 on Saturday. Officials said another 889 people died in the 24 hours to Saturday, the second-highest daily tally since the epidemic emerged on Feb. 21. 

Confirmed cases rose by about 6,000 to 92,472, the second-highest number of cases in the world behind the United States.

Italy's sports minister said on Sunday he would propose banning all sports events, including soccer matches, for the whole of April. 

Health Minister Roberto Speranza asked Italians on Sunday not to "let the guard down now."

"We would cancel out all the efforts made until now to rein in contagion. The sacrifices of the last weeks are serious" he told newspaper Corriere della Sera in an interview.

(Reporting by Giulia Segreti) ((Giulia.Segreti@tr.com; +39.06.85224324;))

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