ROME, March 8 (Reuters) - Italy imposed a virtual lockdown across a swathe of its wealthy north on Sunday, including the financial capital Milan, in a drastic new attempt to try to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
The unprecedented clampdown, which will impact some 16 million people and stay in force until April 3, was signed into law overnight by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
The draconian new measures order people not to enter or leave Lombardy, Italy's richest region, as well as 14 provinces in four other regions, including the cities of Venice, Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia and Rimini.
"There will be no movement in or out of these areas, or within them, unless for proven, work-related reasons, emergencies or health reasons," Conte told a news conference in the middle of the night after hours of confusion over his plans.
All museums, gyms, cultural centres, ski resorts and swimming pools will be shut in the targeted zones, while leave was cancelled for health workers as Italy's hospitals sag under the pressure of the virus.
The government enacted the draft just hours after officials had announced that the number of coronavirus cases had leapt by more than 1,200 in a 24-hour period - the biggest daily rise since the epidemic began in the country two weeks ago.
Deaths due to the infectious virus had also risen, by 36 to 233, while the number of patients in intensive care climbed to 567, up 23% from the day before. Of the 5,883 Italians originally infected, 589 have fully recovered. (Reporting by Crispian Balmer and Angelo Amante; Editing by Christopher Cushing)