ROME - Italy now has more than 53,000 recorded infections and more than 4,800 dead, and the rate of increase keeps growing, with more than half the cases and fatalities coming in the past week. On Saturday, officials reported 793 additional deaths, by far the largest single-day increase so far. Italy has surpassed China as the country with the highest death toll, becoming the epicenter of a shifting pandemic.
The government has sent in the army to enforce the lockdown in Lombardy, the northern region at the center of the outbreak, where bodies have piled up in churches. On Friday night, the authorities tightened the nationwide lockdown, closing parks, banning outdoor activities including walking or jogging far from home.
The tragedy of Italy now stands as a warning to its European neighbors and the United States, where the virus is coming with equal velocity. If Italy’s experience shows anything, it is that measures to isolate affected areas and limit the movement of the broader population need to be taken early, put in place with absolute clarity, then strictly enforced.
Despite now having some of the toughest measures in the world, Italian authorities fumbled many of those steps early in the contagion — when it most mattered as they sought to preserve basic civil liberties as well as the economy.