A man wearing a protective mask passes by the Coliseum in Rome on March 7, 2020 amid fear of Covid-19 epidemic. Image Credit: AFP

Italian lockdown

ROME, BEIJING (AP): Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has announced that the entire region of Lombardy and a number of provinces in other regions have been put under lockdown as the coronavirus continued to spread throughout the country

italy's prime minister announced a sweeping coronavirus quarantine early Sunday, restricting the movements of about a quarter of the country's population in a bid to limit contagions at the epicenter of Europe's outbreak.

Shortly after midnight, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signed a decree affecting about 16 million people in the country's prosperous north, including the Lombardy region and at least 14 provinces in neighboring regions.

The extraordinary measures will be in place until April 3.

"For Lombardy and for the other northern provinces that I have listed there will be a ban for everybody to move in and out of these territories and also within the same territory," Conte said. "Exceptions will be allowed only for proven professional needs, exceptional cases and health issues."

Around the world, more and more countries were bracing for a big increase in virus cases.

Western countries have been increasingly imitating China — where the virus first emerged late last year, and which has suffered the vast majority of infections — by imposing travel controls and shutting down public events.

March 7 (Saturday) report:

On Saturday, Italy's death toll from the novel coronavirus rose by 36 to 233 on Saturday while the number of infections shot up by a single-day record of 1,247 to hit 5,883.

Italy has recorded the most deaths of any country outside China and the third-most infections after China and South Korea.

A top politician in Italy caught the coronavirus and other countries curtailed travel to Europe's worst-affected nation as its death toll climbed.

One person was diagnosed in the Vatican, the tiny walled city-state in central Rome that is home to Pope Francis. The government may announce new quarantine measures.

Coronavirus advances in Europe, Iran, Korea, Thailand

The virus also continued to advance as Germany, Spain, Belgium, Iran, Korea and Thailand confirmed new infections on Saturday. The number of cases globally climbed past 101,300.

A 55-year-old lawmaker died in Iran as the death toll there swelled to 145. It marked the first fatality among 23 infected members of the country's parliament. In the U.S., Florida reported its first two deaths.