Different regions had enforced different measures, politicians offered different definitions of what “movement” meant, and internet rumors spread unsubstantiated — and, the authorities said, false — accounts of overburdened hospitals denying care to anyone over 60. Riots broke out in 27 prisons, with guards held hostage and several inmates dying, in part because the decree had banned jail visits and day-release programs for inmates.
Residents in and out of the locked-down areas of the north expressed bewilderment at what they could or could not do, or should do, to protect themselves.
“We are hearing too many things, and people don’t really get what’s going on,” said Laurence Paretti, 56, who window-shopped in Milan, where she taught yoga. She said she assumed it was fine to take a walk around the city but said that the government’s explanations “aren’t clear at all.”
Mr. Conte acknowledged that a change was necessary on Monday night, as he introduced what he called stronger and broader restrictions. “We have to do it immediately,” he said.
Giovanni Rezza, director of the infective illness department at the National Health Institute, called the decision “necessary” and suggested that European neighbors such as France and Germany should follow suit.
He said Italy was essentially faced with two choices, a Wuhan-style lockdown in which people could not leave their towns, including in the economic capital of Milan, or the option the government took, imposing partial travel restrictions and social distancing by closing bars and sporting events and thus keeping people away from one another.
Mr. Rezza, who on Monday morning raised the alarm of the virus hitting Rome, said he believed the government feared an epidemic in the less developed south. “There is a huge scare that the virus spreads to southern regions,” where the health care system is much inferior to the one in the north, he said.