Italy is facing its “darkest hour” as it battles against the novel coronavirus crisis, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a Monday interview, quoting from Winston Churchill.
“Over the past days I thought back to about what I read on Churchill: it is our darkest hour but we will make it,” Conte said.
On Sunday, Italy’s Civil Protection Agency said the number of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases had jumped by a quarter to 7,375 people, and the death toll had risen by 133 to 366 fatalities.
No other country apart from China has faced a higher death toll.
On the weekend, Conte’s government restricted travel in and out of large parts of northern Italy, including Milan and Venice, in an effort to contain the outbreak.
The government decision was leaked by the press late Saturday, causing a panicked rush out of Milan and other affected areas, which may have helped spread the virus out of lockdown areas.
In his interview, Conte pledged tougher measures to avoid new leaks.
He also said it was “difficult to make predictions” on when the crisis would abate.
In Italy, several high profile figures have tested positive for the coronavirus, including the leader of the co-ruling Democratic Party Nicola Zingaretti and the head of the Army, General Salvatore Farina.
Conte said he took a swab test, and came out negative.
The virus pushed into more corners of Europe on Monday, with Albania reporting its first COVID-19 cases: a father and son who recently travelled to Italy.
Prime Minister Edi Rama called an emergency government session to discuss measures to reduce the risk of an outbreak.