Coronavirus Outbreak - italy
A man wearing a protective mask walks in Rome. Photo: AFP

Italy on Sunday recorded the second-highest coronavirus toll in the world, reporting a sharp jump in deaths and overtaking South Korea on infections.

The number of fatalities nearly tripled, rising from 133 to 366, according to the civil protection agency, with most deaths occurring in the hard-hit Lombardy region in Italy’s wealthy north.

The country now has the most deaths of any country outside China, and the second-most COVID-19 infections in the world, after the number of cases rose by a single-day record of 1,492 to 7,375.

South Korea currently has some 7,313 cases, and Sunday said its rate of infection was slowing.

Over 15 million Italians were adjusting to life in lockdown after the government issued a decree shutting off whole swaths of the north.

Premier Giuseppe Conte signed the quarantine decree overnight. Areas under lockdown include Milan, Italy’s financial hub and the main city in Lombardy, and Venice, the main city in the neighboring Veneto region. The extraordinary measures will be in place until April 3.

“There will be a ban for everybody to move in and out of these territories and also within the same territory,” Conte said. “Exceptions will be allowed only for proven professional needs, exceptional cases and health issues.”

The fate of foreign visitors stuck in Italy’s new quarantine zones is still unclear.

It was not clear, however, how strictly the order would be enforced, or how authorities could prevent people from leaving.

Preventative measures were also imposed on the rest of the country, including the closure of all museums and monuments.

Civil protection agency chief Angelo Borrelli said Italy was ordering 22 million surgical masks to help stop the spread.

China has suffered about three-fourths of the world’s 106,000 coronavirus infections and most of its nearly 3,600 deaths. New infections in China, where the virus outbreak began, have leveled off dramatically, however, and most of those infected, in China and globally, have already recovered.