Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has called this his country’s “darkest hour” as the death toll soared to 631 on Tuesday with new restrictions leaving tourist attractions empty and huge queues outside food shops

    People keep a safe distance while lining up to enter a post office in downtown Rome (Image: AFP via Getty Images)

    The Italian Government has imposed a new three-foot rule in public places, limiting how many people can go inside at once with the the whole country on coronavirus lockdown.

    Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte this week extended self-isolation to the entire 60 million population with the mainland European country's death toll at 631 of over 10,000 cases.

    Official advice states people must keep "at least one metre" away from anyone else at all times – outlined in a decree issued by the Government's special scientific committee on coronavirus.

    The unprecedented quarantine comes as the Italian premier described the outbreak as his nation's "darkest hour" and has prompted the British Government to steer clear if possible.

    Meanwhile, Sergio Brusin of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, warned Britain could be on a similar lockdown in as little as a fortnight unless ministers take drastic action – and soon.

    Commuters, some wearing a respiratory mask, travel in the underground metro in downtown Milan
    (Image: AFP via Getty Images)

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    He has drawn strong comparisons between the UK's situation now and that of its European neighbours and says "thousands of cases will come".

    The strict measures in Italy say people should only move around for reasons  of work, for health needs or for emergencies.

    Public transport will remain operational, but Conte told reporters he wanted as many people as possible to stay at home, while those who want to travel will need to fill in a document explaining their reasons for doing so and carry it with them.

    If they are found to have lied they face possible fines or jail terms.

    Though supermarkets can remain open at all times, but restaurants can only operate between 6am and 6pm as long as customers are kept a metre apart.

    A man walking in empty Piazza del Popolo after a decree orders for the whole of Italy to be on lockdown
    (Image: FABIO FRUSTACI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

    As a result, tourist hotspots including Milan's shopping centres were all but empty on Tuesday while the three-foot rule meant queues stretched into the streets outside shops as panic buyers attempted to stock up on essentials.

    Other Government advice brought about the new committee includes no more kissing, hugging or handshaking.

    According to reports, hospitals are becoming overwhelmed in northern Italy, the epicentre of the country's initial outbreak, with medics having to sidetrack non-virus cases.

    British Airways and Jet2 both grounded all flights to Italy until at least April, while easyJet has halted most of its services to northern Italy until nearly May.

    Face masks have been a feature at Gatwick Airport for weeks now
    (Image: Daily Star)

    Passengers, meanwhile, were flooding back into Britain from Italy yesterday without undergoing health checks and claiming they have not been given any information about self-isolation .

    Neapolitan Paolo Lauletta, 41, who drives a cab in Brighton, on landing at Gatwick said his flight was 60 percent full with the spread having left Italians "very scared".

    “I don’t know about self-isolation, because I have only been in Italy for the last five days," he continued.

    “I wasn’t given any advice about self-isolating. My wife is picking me up to take me back to Brighton.

    “We weren’t given any information on the plane or checked when we came off."

    Speaking on the BBC's soon-to-be-axed Victoria Derbyshire Show, Mr Brusin said the UK Government has mere "days" to do what is required to prevent deadly COVID-19 coronavirus taking a hold of Britain as it has in Italy.

    The empty Navigli area, a system of navigable and interconnected canals, in Milan
    (Image: MATTEO BAZZI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

    He said: “If you don’t do anything then thousands of cases will come.

    "The UK is in the same situation Italy was two weeks ago."

    Italian doctors are reported to be making comparisons to wartime triage medics having decide who lives and who dies as the number of beds available continues to dwindle.

    Retired doctors are being recalled in a bid to give the struggling health service a better chance of fighting the virus.

    Prior to the latest cases and deaths, earlier this week Italy's fatality rate was running at five percent, higher than the 3-4 percent average elsewhere.

    Dr Giovanni Rezza, head of infectious disease at the National Institutes of Health, said this had something to do with the country having the world's oldest population after Japan. 

    The average age of coronavirus deaths in Italy is 80.



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