İrem UZUN -TDO- Italy has been plunged into chaos after details of a plan to quarantine more than 16 million people in the north amid an escalating coronavirus outbreak were leaked to the press, sending thousands into panic as they tried to flee south. The whole of Lombardy, including its financial capital of Milan, and 14 provinces across the worst-affected northern regions, have been shut down until 3 April as Italy grapples to contain the spread of a virus that has so far killed 233 people and infected 5,883.

It has also announced that all schools, gyms, museums, nightclubs and other venues will be closed across the whole country. Among the latest people to test positive is the army's chief of staff. Salvatore Farina said he felt well and was self-isolating. The strict new quarantine measures affect a quarter of the Italian population and center on the rich northern part of the country that powers its economy. The death toll in Italy has passed 230, with officials reporting more than 36 deaths in 24 hours.

The health system is under immense strain in Lombardy, where people are being treated in hospital corridors. "We want to guarantee the health of our citizens. We understand that these measures will impose sacrifices, sometimes small and sometimes very big," Prime Minister Conte said as he announced the measures in the middle of the night. "There will be no movement in or out of these areas, or within them, unless for proven work-related reasons, emergencies or health reasons... We are facing an emergency, a national emergency. We have to limit the spread of the virus and prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed," Conte told reporters.

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