Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced Wednesday evening that Italy was taking drastic new measures as part of its coronavirus lockdown. All nonessential commercial services and shops will be temporarily closed, including restaurants, bars, and hairdressers.
Essential services — such as supermarkets, grocers, pharmacies, and banks — will continue to operate, as would key sectors like food production, Conte said.
The announcement came the same day as the World Health Organization declared the worldwide outbreak a pandemic, and just two days after Conte had extended the first round of lockdown restrictions, initially introduced in northern Italy, to the whole country until April 3.
"Now is the moment to take the next step," Conte said Wednesday.
Productive industries, factories, and “essential professional services” would remain open, the prime minister said, but these businesses had to put in place flexible working conditions and adequate security protocols for workers.
Public transport and utilities would also continue to operate as they are necessary to the functioning of those sectors that remain open.
The mantra remained the same, Conte said: Restrict travel to reasons of work, essentials, and emergencies.
Conte warned that it would be a "couple of weeks," not days, before the effects of the lockdown measures could be seen and evaluated properly, and that the number of people testing positive to the coronavirus was likely to rise in the meantime.
He thanked Italians for the "not easy" sacrifices they were making, and he praised their sense of community, describing the response to the measures introduced so far as "extraordinary."
Conte added that the world was watching Italy and predicted its model would be followed by others. He said that the health of the Italian people was his number one priority.
The latest data shows that Italy has had 12,462 cases of coronavirus. Of these, 1,045 people have so far recovered, while 827 have died.