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More Than A Quarter Of Italy's Population Quarantined After Coronavirus Outbreak

The Italian government has enacted a startling and sweeping quarantine measure in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus, placing one quarter of the country's population in effective lockdown.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has announced that the entire region of Lombardy and a number of other provinces are under lockdown as the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the country.

In the middle of the night, Conte signed a decree that imposes new restrictions on the movement of people in Lombardy as well as the provinces of Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio, Rimini, Pesaro and Urbino, Venice, Padua, Treviso, Asti and Alessandria.

The entry and exit to and from these areas, which also includes Milan, will be allowed only in exceptional cases.

Two tourists wearing respiratory masks walk while holding a tourist map in Piazza Duomo in Milan. Image: Getty

Some 50,000 people in northern Italy are currently affected by quarantine measures, but this new decree would take that number to 16 million -- more than a quarter of the country's 60 million population.

Theatres, night clubs, swimming pools, museums, gyms and ski resorts would all be closed. Restaurants and cafes would be allowed to remain open but customers would have to sit at least one metre apart.

The decree could be implemented as soon as Sunday local time, and the restrictions are expected to remain in place until at least April 3.

The LBA Serie A match Virtus Roma v Banco Sardegna Sassari played behind closed doors on March 7. Image: Getty

The Italian government has ordered all sporting competitions to be played behind closed doors until April 3 in a bid to control the spread of the disease, which has killed around 200 people in the country.

Serie A football matches were played behind closed doors this weekend across Italy, but the chief of the Italian Footballers' Association, Damiano Tommasi, has called for the competition to be halted.

The President of the Italian Football Federation, Gabriele Gravina, has refused to rule out the suspension of Serie A if a player tests positive for the coronavirus.

Students will remain home until at least March 15 after the Italian government ordered all schools and universities to close.

A teacher gives an online class at Politecnico di Milano on March 5. Image: Getty

The leader of Italy’s co-ruling Democratic Party, Nicola Zingaretti, said on Saturday he had tested positive for coronavirus, the first senior politician to be infected.

“I have coronavirus too”, Zingaretti said in a video posted on Facebook, adding he was well and in self-isolation at home.

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More Than 100 000 Cases Of Coronavirus As Economies Hit Hard

Crossing more borders, the coronavirus has infected more than 100,000 people worldwide as it wove itself deeper into the daily lives of millions.

Italy is Europe's worst-affected country by the virus, with more than 5800 cases recorded by Saturday. At least 230 people have died.

On Friday, the Australian government tightened rules for Italian travellers, with health checks now mandatory for all those departing to and arriving from Italy.

With Reuters, AAP.