- On Sunday, Italy extended quarantine measures to 14 northern provinces in the country, locking 16 million people—a quarter of Italy’s population—in the region.
- Inmates at more than two dozen Italian prisons rioted in protest of overcrowded conditions as the country deals with a massive coronavirus outbreak.
- Some prisoners escaped while six others died after they broke into an infirmary and overdosed.
- By Monday, the Italian government announced it would further expand travel restrictions to the entire country of 60 million people.
Italy Quarantines 16 Million People
The Italian government has imposed a massive quarantine measure affecting all of Italy and its 60 million residents.
Monday, it announced that the country’s travel restrictions would be expanded across all of Italy. On Sunday, Italy issued a similar quarantine in 14 northern provinces on Sunday, preventing 16 million people—a quarter of the country’s population—from leaving the region.
The decree, which will not be lifted until April 3rd, also shuts down movie theaters, gyms, bars as well as public and private events. Those private events even include weddings and funerals.
Italy faces one of the worst outbreaks in the world, with 7,300 cases as of Monday morning. It now compares to South Korea which also has recorded 7,300 cases, but only 50 people have died.
In Italy, the death rate has been much higher, with the death toll jumping from 233 to 366 between Saturday and Sunday.
Notably, most of those deaths have occurred in the northern region of Lombardy.
With an increasingly worsening situation, the Italian government planned to close the region on Sunday, but on Saturday, an Italian newspaper leaked a draft of the decree that extended Italy’s “red-zone” quarantine to 14 northern provinces.
That leak then prompted people to flee the region in buses and trains before the lockdown was imposed. Many have even described the measure as “draconian,” because even though China issued a similar lockdown, it is a communist nation while Italy is a democracy.
If caught leaving one of the red zones, people can be fined or even face jail time.
Italian Prison Riots
In prisons, the situation escalated, with prisoners in more than two dozen facilities protesting overcrowded conditions and fearing that the coronavirus could easily spread among cells.
Reportedly, those protests quickly turned into riots with several prisoners escaping from one facility. Other prisoners at a different facility also escaped prison walls and climbed onto the roof, holding up a painted sheet that read, “Indulto,” the Italian word for “pardon.”
In one prison, six inmates died on Monday after they broke into an infirmary and overdoses on drugs.
Outside of prisons, inmates’ families protested on the streets, some clashing with police. Part of the reason why those inmates’ families showed up is that in addition to overcrowded conditions, prisons have stopped allowing visitors to see inmates to reduce the spread of the virus.
Health Officials Say U.S. Is Past the Point of Containment
In the United States, the number of cases has also climbed, with nearly 550 cases reported Monday morning. Of those, 22 people are dead, and 19 of those deaths are from Washington state alone.
Washington’s outbreak began after several patients at a nursing home came down with the coronavirus.
Several health officials have also indicated that the U.S. is past the point of containment. Now the goal is to try to protect as many people from catching the virus as possible.
“Initially, we had a posture of containment so that we could give people time to prepare for where we are right now,” U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams told CNN. “Now, we’re shifting into a mitigation phase, which means that we’re helping communities understand you’re going to see more cases. Unfortunately, you’re going to see more deaths, but that doesn’t mean that we should panic.”
Adams went on to say that communities need to decide whether or not to close schools, have employees work from home, and cancel large gatherings. As the outbreak in the U.S. continues, many schools have already shut their doors. Some cities have even started canceling large music events such as Ultra Music Fest and South by Southwest.
Adams, however, did note that he believes the virus is contained in certain parts of the country.
Democrats Blame Trump Administration for “Mixed Messages”
On Friday, President Donald Trump signed an $8.3 billion coronavirus aid package. Though Trump originally proposed a $2.5 billion plan, this bill easily passed through the House, and later, the Senate.
It will now fund prevention efforts, medical supplies, and vaccine research.
After signing that bill, Trump then visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta, where he held a press conference with CDC officials.
“It will end,” he told reporters. “People have to remain calm.”
When asked whether or not Americans should start canceling their travel plans, Trump said it was important to look at where they are traveling before making the decision.
“I think it’s fine if they want to do it,” he said. “I don’t think it’s an overreaction. But I wouldn’t be generally inclined to do it. I really wouldn’t be.”
One of the big takeaways from Trump’s press conference stemmed from confusion over who could be tested if they think they may have the virus.
“Anybody, right now and yesterday, anybody who needs a test gets a test. They’re there,” Trump said on Friday after CDC officials announced four million tests would be mobilized by the end of this week.
On Thursday, however, Vice President Mike Pence said that though the government would provide testing for people it believes have been exposed or are showing symptoms, it doesn’t “have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward.”
On Saturday, Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo criticized the Trump Administration on MSNBC, saying it was sending “mixed messages” in regard to if every American could be tested.
Cuomo’s message is not unfamiliar from that of other Democratic governors in states with outbreaks of the coronavirus. Last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom also called the U.S.’s testing capacity, quote, “simply inadequate.”
A couple of weeks ago, Washington Governor Jay Inslee also criticized the Trump Administration, saying that Washington’s “work would be more successful if the Trump Administration stuck to the science and told the truth.”
At his CDC press conference Friday, Trump retaliated against Inslee, calling him a “snake” and saying, “If you’re nice to him, he will take advantage.”
Sunday night, Trump also directly responded to Cuomo on Twitter. There are no mixed messages, only political weaponization by people like you…”
This morning, he added, “The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power (it used to be greater!) to inflame the CoronaVirus situation, far beyond what the facts would warrant. Surgeon General, ‘The risk is low to the average American.’”
Russia Takes Over 900 Azovstal Fighters Prisoner as Mariupol Surrenders
Ukraine said the soldiers successfully completed their mission, but the fall of Mariupol represents a strategic win for Putin.
Azovstal Waves the White Flag
Russia’s foreign ministry announced on Wednesday that it had captured 959 Ukrainians from the Azovstal steelworks, where besieged soldiers have maintained the last pocket of resistance in Mariupol for weeks.
A ministry spokesperson said in a statement that 51 were being treated for injuries, and the rest were sent to a former prison colony in the town of Olenivka in a Russian-controlled area of Donetsk.
The defense ministry released videos of what it claimed were Ukrainian fighters receiving care at a hospital in the Russian-controlled town of Novoazovsk. In one, a soldier tells the camera he is being treated “normally” and that he is not being psychologically pressured, though it is unclear whether he is speaking freely.
It was unclear if any Ukrainians remained in Azovstal, but Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk, said in a statement Wednesday that the “commanders of the highest level” were still hiding in the plant.
Previously, estimates put the number of soldiers inside Azovstal around 1,000.
Ukraine officially gave up Mariupol on Monday, when the first Azovstal fighters began surrendering.
Reuters filmed dozens of wounded Ukrainians being driven away in buses marked with the Russian pro-war “Z” symbol.
Ukraine’s deputy defense minister said in a Tuesday statement that the Ukrainian prisoners would be swapped in an exchange for captured Russians. But numerous Russian officials have signaled that the Ukrainian soldiers should be tried.
Mariupol Falls into Russian Hands
After nearly three months of bombardment that left Mariupol in ruins, Russia’s combat mission in the city has ended.
The sprawling complex of underground tunnels, caverns, and bunkers beneath Azovstal provided a defensible position for the Ukrainians there, and they came to represent the country’s resolve in the face of Russian aggression for many spectators.
Earlier this month, women, children, and the elderly were evacuated from the plant.
The definitive capture of Mariupol, a strategic port city, is a loss for Ukraine and a boon for Russia, which can now establish a land bridge between Crimea and parts of Eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian separatists. The development could also free up Russian troops around Mariupol to advance on the East, while additional reinforcements near Kharkiv descend from the north, potentially cutting off Ukrainian forces from the rest of the country.
The Ukrainian military has framed events in Mariupol as at least a partial success, arguing that the defenders of Azovstal completed their mission by tying down Russian troops and resources in the city and giving Ukrainians elsewhere more breathing room.
It claimed that doing so prevented Russia from rapidly capturing the city of Zaporizhzhia further to the west.
See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (BBC) (BBC)
Convoy of Up to 1,000 Vehicles Evacuates Refugees From Mariupol as Russian War Effort Stalls
Russia may have lost a third of its ground invasion force since the war began, according to British military intelligence.
Hundreds Make It Out Alive
A convoy of between 500 and 1,000 vehicles evacuating refugees from the southern port city of Mariupol arrived safely in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia on Saturday.
People have been trickling out of Mariupol for over two months, but the recent evacuation was the single biggest out of the city thus far. Russian troops, who control most of the city, did not allow the convoy to leave for days, but eventually, they relented.
The convoy first traveled to Berbyansky some 80 kilometers to the west, then stopped at other settlements before driving 200 kilometers northwest to Zaporizhzhia. Many refugees told reporters they took “secret detours” to avoid Russian checkpoints and feared every moment of the journey.
Nikolai Pavlov, a 74-year-old retiree, told Reuters he had lived in a basement for a month after his apartment was destroyed.
“We barely made it,” he said. “There were lots of elderly people among us… the trip was devastating. But it was worth it.”
63-year-old Iryna Petrenko also said she had stayed in Mariupol initially to take care of her 92-year-old mother, who subsequently died.
“We buried her next to her house, because there was nowhere to bury anyone,” she said.
Putin’s Plans Go Poorly
In Mariupol, Ukrainian fighters continue to hold the Azovstal steelworks, the only part of the city still under Ukrainian control.
On Sunday, a video emerged appearing to show a hail of projectiles bursting into white, brightly burning munitions over the factory.
The pro-Russian separatist who posted it on Telegram wrote, “If you didn’t know what it is and for what purpose – you could say that it’s even beautiful.”
Turkey is trying to negotiate an evacuation of wounded Ukrainians from the factory, but neither Russia nor Ukraine have agreed to any plan.
After nearly three months of war, Mariupol has been left in ruins, with thousands of civilians reportedly dead.
“In less than 3 month, Mariupol, one of Ukraine’s fastest developing & comfortable cities, was reduced into a heap of charred ruins smelling death, with thousands of people standing in long breadlines and selling their properties out to buy some food. Less than three months,” Illia Ponomarenko, a reporter for The Kyiv Independent, tweeted.
On Sunday, the United Kingdom’s defense ministry estimated that Russia has likely lost a third of its ground invasion forces since the war began.
Moscow is believed to have deployed as many as 150,000 troops in Ukraine.
The ministry added that Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine have “lost momentum” and are “significantly behind schedule.” Moreover, it said Russia failed to achieve substantial territorial gains over the last month while sustaining “consistently high levels of attrition.”
“Under the current conditions, Russia is unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance over the next 30 days,” the ministry concluded.
Sweden also signaled on Sunday that it will join Finland in applying for NATO membership.
See what others are saying: (The Daily Beast) (U.S. News and World Report) (The Hill)
Israel Moves to Build Over 4,000 West Bank Settlements as Palestinian Homes Demolished
The Israeli military is proceeding with a plan to evict at least 1,000 Palestinians from the West Bank.
Settlers Get Ready to Move in
On Thursday, a military planning body in the Israeli-occupied West Bank approved the construction of 4,427 housing units, according to the watchdog group Peace Now.
“The State of Israel took another stumble toward the abyss and further deepened the occupation,” Hagit Ofran, an expert at Peace Now, said via the Associated Press.
The plan is the largest advancement of settlement projects since President Joe Biden took office in the United States.
The U.S. opposes settlement expansion and said as much when the plan was first announced last week, but critics say Washington has done little to pressure Israel to stop.
In a statement, U.N. Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland called the settlements a “major obstacle to peace.”
“Continued settlement expansion further entrenches the occupation, encroaches upon Palestinian land and natural resources, and hampers the free movement of the Palestinian population,” he said.
In October, Israel approved some 3,000 settlement homes despite a U.S. rebuke. There are currently over 130 Israeli settlements in the West Bank harboring almost 500,000 settlers, in addition to the nearly three million Palestinians living in the territory.
Palestinians Pushed Off Their Land
On Wednesday, the same day Israeli soldiers allegedly shot and killed Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, the military demolished at least 18 buildings in the West Bank, including 12 residential ones.
Israel’s supreme court has also ruled that eight Palestinian hamlets can be expelled, potentially leaving at least 1,000 Palestinians homeless.
The area targeted is known as the Masafer Yatta, and its residents say they have been herding animals and practicing traditional desert agriculture there for decades, long before Israel took over the West Bank in 1967. Israel, however, claims there were no permanent structures there before the military designated it a firing zone in the 1980s
“What’s happening now is ethnic cleansing,” Sami Huraini, an activist and a resident of the area, told the Associated Press. “The people are staying on their land and have already started to rebuild.”