Coronavirus in Italy spurs hardest-hit region to set strict distance limit on dog walking

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In the epicenter of Europe's coronavirus outbreak, not even man's best friend is immune to restrictions set by authorities to contain the deadly virus.

As of Monday morning, Italy had 59,138 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the second-highest number in the world, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Among all the people with the virus in the country, 5,476 have died, the university's tally said.

In the hardest-hit region of Lombardy, where nearly half of Italy's cases and two-thirds of deaths have taken place, officials on Sunday announced more restrictions after complaints that too many people were still going outside.

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Outdoor exercise in the northern Italian region is now banned, and even dog walking faces strict limitations.

A man strolls with his dog in Rome Friday, March 13, 2020. A sweeping lockdown is in place in Italy to try to slow down the spread of coronavirus epidemic.

A man strolls with his dog in Rome Friday, March 13, 2020. A sweeping lockdown is in place in Italy to try to slow down the spread of coronavirus epidemic. (Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse via AP)

As of Sunday, the maximum radius for dog walking was set at around 650 feet.

A woman walks her dog in the EUR neighborhood in Rome, Monday, March 23, 2020.

A woman walks her dog in the EUR neighborhood in Rome, Monday, March 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Those who violate the new set of restrictions face fines of up to $5,345. Authorities have stressed the new restrictions were implemented after people abused the freedom of movement.

On Sunday, Rome Police Chief Franco Gabrielli said 80 people had been cited a day earlier -- including for shopping six miles from home, traveling about nine miles to a doctor’s appointment and claiming medical reasons for being out for a walk but lacking a doctor’s certification.

A man walks in an empty Vittorio Emanuele II gallery shopping arcade, in downtown Milan, Italy, Sunday, March 22, 2020.

A man walks in an empty Vittorio Emanuele II gallery shopping arcade, in downtown Milan, Italy, Sunday, March 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

The action in Lombardy came ahead of new measures announced by Premier Giuseppe Conte to slow industrial production in eurozone's third-largest economy and a major exporter to only sectors deemed crucial.

Labor unions have threatened a general strike if too many factories remain open as the virus outbreak drags on, according to Italian news agency ANSA. Supermarkets, pharmacies, food stores, banks, post offices, and transport services will still remain open.

Two additional doctors died on Monday of COVID-19, bringing the death toll among the frontline medics to 19, according to ANSA.

Coffins wait to be transported to cemetery, in the church of Serina, near Bergamo, Northern Italy, Saturday, March 21, 2020.

Coffins wait to be transported to cemetery, in the church of Serina, near Bergamo, Northern Italy, Saturday, March 21, 2020. (Claudio Furlan/LaPresse via AP)

Italian authorities said Sunday the increase in both infections and deaths had shown the first sign of narrowing in the previous 24 hours.

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But in Spain, the number of new infections rose for the second day in a row.

Spain's new 4,517 COVID-19 infections on Monday brought the overall number since the beginning of the outbreak to 33,089. The day-to-day increase of around 15 percent is similar to the one seen the day before.

The number of deaths also jumped by 462. Spain now has 2,182 fatalities related to the virus as Spaniards are beginning their second week of confinement.

The Spanish government said deputy prime minister Carmen Calvo has been hospitalized with a respiratory infection and doctors are testing her for coronavirus.

The Spanish government is seeking parliamentary approval to extend the state emergency for two more weeks until April 11, but harsher measures like halting overall industrial production have been ruled out.

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The virus has exploded across Europe in recent weeks.

Germany took drastic action Sunday to slow the spread of the coronavirus as the European Union country banned public gatherings of more than two people.

Shortly after announcing the new measures, German Chancellor Angela Merkel went into quarantine after a doctor she recently had contact with tested positive for the virus.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.