22 March 2020
Rome: In an unexpected announcement made via Facebook, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that all commercial activities in the country would be shut down unless they performed an "essential" role for the country in its battle against the spread of coronavirus.
Conte's announcement on Saturday night came as Italy reported 4,825 coronavirus deaths, the highest global tally even surpassing China where the virus originated last December.
The number of confirmed cases as of Saturday stood at 53,578.
With his declaration, Conte further tightened what is the most dramatic peacetime lockdown in recent history, reports xinhua news agency.
The Prime Minister deemed the crisis as "the country's most difficult since the end of World War II".
Conte said that supermarkets and pharmacies would remain open, and banking and vital transport services would still be available, but that all non-essential commercial activities would be prohibited.
This amounts to a near-total shutdown of the Italian economy, with factories and offices that had been able to operate in some limited capacity no longer operating.
The new rules are expected to enter into force starting Monday.
Conte spoke for less than five minutes with more than 30,000 people logged onto the site despite the fact that he spoke at around 11.30 p.m. and with little advance notice.
Conte said he was speaking via social media because of a desire to "operate with complete transparency".