Italy will boost the size of its economic emergency package and suspend payments on mortgages in an effort to lessen the impact of sweeping restrictions imposed across the country to contain the world’s second-largest coronavirus outbreak after China.
Government ministers on Tuesday said Italy would increase the fiscal measures to help struggling businesses and families to €10bn, up from €7.5bn already announced. They also said there would be a moratorium on debt payments, including mortgages, during the outbreak.
Under new emergency measures that came into force on Tuesday, the entire country has been placed under public health restrictions and all non-essential travel across Italy has been prohibited until the start of April.
Italians are allowed to travel to work and leave their houses for essential activity, and public transport continues to operate, but people must sign self-declared forms explaining their movements. Virtually all public gatherings — including weddings and funerals — are suspended, and restaurants and bars must close at 6pm each day.
Stefano Patuanelli, Italy’s economic development minister, said the new measures could see Italy sharply increase its budget deficit to just under 3 per cent of gross domestic product this year, up from 1.6 per cent in 2019.
“We are working to make sure no one loses their job or goes without pay because of the coronavirus,” he said on Tuesday.
Laura Castelli, Italy’s deputy finance minister, said the government would suspend mortgage payments and other household bills across the country during the coronavirus outbreak. She said the government had discussed the measures with the banking industry.
On Monday, Italy announced that the entire country would be placed under quarantine in the government’s most dramatic step yet to contain the*second-largest outbreak of coronavirus outside China.
Giuseppe Conte, the prime minister,*imposed the restrictions from Tuesday on the movement of the whole of the country, a population of more than 60m people.
On Monday, the total number of cases rose to 9,171, including 463 dead and 724 recoveries, up from just over 7,000 cases on Sunday as infections continued to rise.
Schools and universities will be closed across the peninsula and public gatherings will be banned until April 3. The emergency measures were being imposed after the number of cases jumped substantially over the past two days, overtaking South Korea as the largest outbreak outside China.
Under the new rules, Italians will be able to travel to work, shop for food and leave their houses for medical treatment, meaning businesses will be able to stay open. All citizens will have to sign the self-declared document*to present to the police and the military to explain their movements. Anyone judged to be breaking the measures faces fines or imprisonment for three months.
The measures will mean that Italy’s Serie A football championship will be suspended, along with all other sporting events.
“There will no longer be a ‘red zone’ — the whole of Italy will be a protected area. We have to avoid moving around other than for emergencies or essential work reasons within designated areas,” Mr Conte said on Monday. He added Italians travelling abroad would not face restrictions.
“Our habits must change now: we all must give up something for the sake of Italy . . . We have adopted a new decision based on the assumption that there is no more time.”