Italy’s government has imposed lockdowns and quarantines in several towns as the country battles the largest Covid-19 outbreak in Europe.
More than 150 people in Italy are confirmed to have the virus, and four people have died. A total of 110 of the cases are in the northern border region of Lombardy, and a further 21 are in adjoining Veneto.
On Saturday (22 Feb), the country’s Prime Minister, Guiseppe Conte, announced “extraordinary measures”, awarding regional authorities the power to lock down entire towns in an effort to prevent the spread of the disease. He said that the police - and if necessary the armed forces - would have the authority to enforce the regulations.
The move comes as Austria announced it was considering closing its southern border after two people who entered the country on a train from Italy tested positive for Covid-19.
About 50,000 Italians cannot enter or leave locked down towns for the next two weeks, without special permission.
In some towns that have not yet been isolated, officials have imposed restrictions on public meetings and have closed schools and cancelled some top flight football matches.
In Venice, Veneto’s capital, the world-famous Carnival was suspended on Sunday - two days earlier than scheduled - to prevent further outbreaks.
Which towns are in lockdown?
So far, 10 towns in Lombardy have been isolated by the local authorities. They are:
CodognoCastiglione d’AddaCasalpusterlengoFombioMaleoSomagliaBertonicoTerranova dei PasseriniCastelgerundoSan Fiorano
One town in Veneto, called Vo’ Euganeo, has also been isolated.
Which regions have imposed other restrictions?
Alongside Lombardy and Veneto, the regions of Fruili Venezia Guilia, Piemonte, and Emilia Romagna have announced measures that include the suspension of large meetings in public places, and have closed schools and higher education facilities.
Many museums, art galleries, and other cultural institutions have also been closed as a precaution.
Can I travel to Italy?
There are currently no travel restrictions in place for people travelling to Italy, although the measures taken by Italian authorities to isolate certain towns may impact where visitors are able to go inside the country.
What is happening elsewhere?
Across the world, there have been almost 79,000 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 strain of coronavirus since the outbreak began in December last year.
Nearly 2,600 people have died, according to the European Centre for Disease Control.
In Asia, the vast majority of Covid-19 cases are in China, where 77,035 instances have been confirmed by the ECDC as of Sunday evening.
But authorities in South Korea and Iran are also struggling to contain growing numbers of infected citizens, in what some experts fear is a sign that the outbreak could become a pandemic.
World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had warned that the window of opportunity to contain the virus was "narrowing".
Paul Hunter, professor of health protection at the University of East Anglia in the UK, told the BBC on Monday that the spike in cases outside China was "extremely concerning".
"The tipping point after which our ability to prevent a global pandemic seems a lot closer after the past 24 hours," he said.
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19 is a type of coronavirus - a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Common symptoms of Covid-19 infection include:
Respiratory symptomsFeverCoughShortness of breath and breathing difficulties
In more severe cases, infection can cause:
PneumoniaSevere acute respiratory syndromeKidney failure
How to help prevent the spread of Covid-19
According to advice given by the World Health Organisation, useful ways to prevent infection spread include:
Regular hand washingCovering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezingThoroughly cooking meat and eggsAvoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms like coughing and sneezing