Italians wake up to empty streets after country put into quarantine

MILAN — Millions of Italians woke up to virtual standstill on Tuesday after the government extended quarantine measures across the entire country in an attempt to curb Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreak.

“We are normally serving offices, school students, tourists but without them around we’re losing 70 percent of our income,” said Fabrizio Ticozzi, 60, who owns a bakery in one of the busiest streets in central Milan.

“We don’t know how long all this is going to last,” added his wife, Carla.

Milan, Italy’s usually humming fashion and financial capital, stood quiet. Those who did leave their homes, open their cafes and store fronts kept their distance conscious of contracting the disease or of having a good enough reason for roaming Milan’s streets.

A police car stands near Rome’s virtually deserted Spanish Steps on Tuesday. Remo Casilli / Reuters

Under the sweeping restrictions that will stay in effect until April 3, the country’s residents are not permitted to travel outside areas where they live unless they can prove it’s because of a medical or work emergency.

Large gatherings and outdoor events, including sports, have been banned, while bars and restaurants will have to close by dusk. Schools and universities will also be closed.

“I am about to sign a decree that we can sum up with the expression: I stay at home,” Italian Prime Minister Matteo Conte said on Monday announcing the measures.

As of Tuesday, 463 people had died of the virus and 9,172 infected.

How Italy will cope under the restrictions remains unclear, as does what exactly it takes to put a country of 60 million on lockdown.

Medical professionals in northern Italy have already sounded the alarm with some taking to social media to warn that the hospitals cannot cope.

“The results of the swabs now come one after the other: positive, positive, positive. All of a sudden the E.R. is collapsing,” Daniele Macchini, a surgeon at a hospital in Bergamo in Italy’s Lombardy region wrote on Facebook last week.

Meanwhile, videos and photos of Italians forming long lines at supermarkets to stockpile food began circulating on social media on Monday night. At a Carrefour Market in central-north Rome, which regularly stays open overnight, entry and exit was being regulated by staff, as customers lined up outside with shopping trolleys, according to The Associated Press.

In Milan, residents are already finding different ways to cope with life stuck in their apartments.

“I am meeting my friend for coffee on Skype at five and my boyfriend will be playing Dungeon & Dragons with his friends on Skype later,” Milan-resident Benedetta Canziani, 29, told NBC News via phone on Tuesday.

Milan’s Vittorio Emanuele II galleria shopping mall stands empty on Tuesday. Miguel Medina / AFP – Getty Images

And in Rome, normally enormously popular tourist destinations stood empty and deserted.

American tourists Cole Macintyre and Brittany Kates said they were enjoying the peace and quiet as they went for a walk near the Colosseum but acknowledged that they were also concerned about getting home.

“It’s a little alarming because we have a daughter, 16-months-old,” said Kates, who is from Charlotte, North Carolina. “Tomorrow, we’re supposed to get back so now we’re wondering how our flights are going to be, if we’re going to be able to get back.”

Michele Novaga reported from Milan, and Saphora Smith and Matteo Moschella reported from London.

Associated Press contributed.