Italy is extending its strict coronavirus quarantine measures, which include a ban on public gatherings, to the entire country.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the measures, which come into effect on Tuesday, were necessary to defend the most fragile members of the community.

He added that the best thing for the citizens of Italy was to stay at home.

Italy's coronavirus death toll jumped on Monday by 97 to 463. It is the worst-hit country after China.

Italy is attempting to lock down 16 million people - more than a quarter of its population - for nearly a month to halt the relentless march of the new coronavirus across Europe.

Weddings and museums, cinemas and shopping centres are all affected by the new restrictions, which focus on a swathe of northern Italy but are disrupting daily life around the country.


Deserted streets in Milan

Confusion reigned after the quarantine was announced, with residents and tourists from Venice to Milan trying to figure out how and when the new measures would take effect.

After mass testing uncovered more than 7,300 infections, Italy's outbreak surged to nearly equal South Korea's, which had been tapering off, and trailing China, where Covid-19 is in retreat.

Italian premier Giuseppe Conte signed a quarantine decree early on Sunday for the country's prosperous north.

Areas under lockdown include Milan, Italy's financial hub and the main city in Lombardy, and Venice, the main city in the neighbouring Veneto region.

The extraordinary measures will be in place until April 3.

Tourists in the region, including those from abroad, are free to head home, the Italian transport ministry said, noting that airports and train stations remain open.

The Pope, who has been ill, held his Sunday blessing by video instead of in person, even though he was not directly affected by the lockdown. He described feeling like he was "in a cage".


The Pope said he is "in a cage".

Italy is closing all museums and archaeological sites, even those far from the lockdown zone. It suspended all weddings until April 3. The northern regions concerned by Sunday's decree are closing cinemas and ski slopes.

Restaurants all around Italy are expected, somehow, to keep patrons 3ft away from each other.

The Vatican Museums are now closed, including the Sistine Chapel, in yet another blow to Italy's all-important tourism industry.

Alitalia, the Italian airline that was already financially ailing before the virus, suspended all flights from Milan's Malpensa airport starting on Monday.

Lombardy's governor, who is in quarantine himself, sought to calm the public, discouraging hoarding and and insisting: "We're not going to war."

Chaos erupted in the hours before Conte signed the decree, as word leaked about the planned quarantine.

In a reversal of the stereotypical north-south tensions in Italy, the governor of Puglia urged northerners to stay away and not bring virus infections down south.
"Get off at the first railway station. Don't take planes," Michele Emiliano said in his dramatic appeal. "Turn around in your cars, get off the pullman buses at the next stop."

Governments across Europe tightened their rules. Bulgaria banned all indoor public events. France's president Emmanuel Macron and Germany's governing parties have held emergency security meetings as the number of cases in each country surpassed 1,000.