Italy expands lockdown, Israel tightens entry to halt virus
Written by Robert Smith   
Monday, 09 March 2020
The battle to halt the coronavirus brought sweeping new restrictions Monday, with Italy expanding a travel ban to the entire country, Israel ordering all visitors quarantined just weeks before Passover and Easter, and Spain closing all schools in and around its capital.

Even as workers in Beijing returned to their jobs and new infections in China continued to subside, Italians struggled to navigate the rapidly changing parameters of the nation’s self-imposed lockdown.

The fears fanned by the virus sent Wall Street stocks tumbling to their biggest drop since 2008, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 7.8 percent. Global oil prices suffered their worst percentage losses since the start of the 1991 Gulf War.

“Now that the virus has a foothold in so many countries, the threat of a pandemic has become very real,” said World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “The great advantage we have is the decisions we all make as governments, businesses, communities, families and individuals can influence the trajectory of this epidemic.”

More than 113,000 people have tested positive for the disease and over 3,900 people with the virus have died, most of them in China. More than 62,000 people have already recovered. But Italy’s intensifying struggle to halt the virus’ spread emerged as a cautionary tale.

“There won’t be just a red zone,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said, in announcing that a lockdown covering about 16 million people in the north would be expanded to the entire country starting Tuesday.

Italian doctors celebrated one small victory after the first patient diagnosed with the illness, a 38-year-old Unilever worker, was moved out of intensive care and began breathing on his own. But the virus’ rapid spread was forcing them to operate like war-time medics, triaging patients to decide who get access to scarce ICU beds.

“Unfortunately we’re only at the beginning,” said Dr. Massimo Galli, head of infectious disease at Milan’s Sacco hospital.

Travelers at Milan’s main train station had to sign police forms self-certifying that they are traveling for “proven work needs,” situations of necessity, health reasons or to return home.

Across Italy, museums and archaeological sites were closed, weddings were canceled and restaurants were told to keep patrons a meter (more than 3 feet) apart. Officials ordered ski lifts across the country to close after students whose classes were canceled began organizing trips to winter resorts. Italy reported a big jump in the number of people who have tested positive for the virus, bringing the total to 9,172 cases and 463 deaths, more than any country except China.