The word quarantine comes from 17th-century Venetian dialect for 40 days, which was the number of times ships had to wait in isolation before entering certain Italian ports during the pandemic known as the Black Death.

Now the word is being used again in Italy, applied to the government’s draconian reaction as the coronavirus and the disease known as COVID-19 appear to be hitting the country with a vengeance. More than 50,000 Italians living in 10 communities are literally locked down, thanks to the largest outbreak outside Asia. The towns, all in the north of the country, are cut off from the rest of Italy now, not even the trains stop when they roll through.
But all across the country, paranoia is spreading faster than the virus. Giorgio Armani tweeted that he will now hold his Fall 2020 show behind closed doors in Milan this week, live-streaming the runway from an empty theater.

On Sunday morning, the regional governor of Lombardy, Attilo Fontana, confirmed that 89 people have now tested positive for the virus and a much larger but unspecified number are referred to as suspect cases.

The second hotspot is in the Veneto region, near Venice, which is celebrating Carnevale to somewhat diminished crowds. Twelve people in the region have tested positive even though none of them has ever been to mainland China or, as far as is known at this point, been in contact with any obvious vectors.
8 Chinese residents, two of whom came back from Wuhan, are under quarantine—but they have not tested positive. It is yet unclear if that cluster will grow.

Other cases in Turin and Milan confirmed Sunday morning have spread the panic even further. Closing down such major metropolitan hubs would be a logistical and economic disaster. Prime Minister Conte says the situation is “fluid”.

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