Italy recorded a jump in deaths from coronavirus of almost 800, taking the toll in the world’s hardest-hit country to almost 5,000.
In its latest desperate effort to halt the epidemic Rome ordered that all businesses must close until April 3, with the exception of those essential to maintaining the country’s supply chain.
“It is the most difficult crisis in our post-war period,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a video posted on Facebook, adding “only production activities deemed vital for national production will allowed.”
Conte did not specify which factories and businesses will considered crucial to keep the country going.
The government expected to publish an emergency decree on Sunday to make the new crackdown immediately effective.
Supermarkets, pharmacies, postal and banking services will remain open and essential public services including transport will be ensured.
“We are slowing down the country’s production engine but we are not stopping it,” Conte said.
Furthermore Italy on Thursday overtook China as the country worst hit by the highly contagious virus.
On Saturday fatalities jumped by 793 to 4,825 in the largest one-day rise since the contagion emerged a month ago.
Reported infections rose to 53,578 from 47,021, the Civil Protection Agency said. There were 2,857 people in intensive care, up from 2,655.
Lombardy, the northern Italian region around Milan which the worst-affected by coronavirus, remains in a critical situation, with 3,095 deaths and 25,515 cases.