Italy imposed further draconian restrictions on public life on Friday in an increasingly desperate effort to halt coronavirus infections after the death toll leapt by 627 in a single day, by far the biggest 24-hour rise recorded anywhere.
The mayor of the most badly affected city, Bergamo in the affluent northern region of Lombardy, said the true number of fatalities from the pandemic in his area was four times higher than was officially reported so far.
“Many of the elderly are dying in their houses or in old people’s homes, without anyone testing them either before or after they die,” Giorgio Gori told the Huffington Post.
He added that a dozen mayors of other cities had confirmed the same thing to him.
Responding to requests by the governors of the worst-hit regions, the national government in Rome said that from Saturday all parks would be closed and people could only take exercise around their homes.
“We have to do even more to contain the infections..Correct behaviour from everyone is essential to win this battle,” Health Minister Roberto Speranza said after signing the latest directive.
Authorities have become frustrated in recent days to see people still out and about despite their appeals to stay indoors for all but absolutely essential needs.
The latest crackdown effectively bans jogging and bicycle rides, the only types of outdoor exercise that were allowed.
“We already have many hundreds of dead. What more is needed before people understand the tragedy we are facing?” said Sergio Venturi, head of the coronavirus response team in Emilia-Romagna, another wealthy northern region hard-hit by the virus.
The national death toll surged by 627 over the past 24 hours to 4,032 – by far the world’s largest daily rise in absolute terms since the contagion emerged a month ago.
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