Italy will shut down schools across the country until mid-March to curb the spread of the coronavirus epidemic, newswire Ansa reported.
The closure, which starts Thursday, is aimed at tackling the outbreak of the highly contagious disease, which has killed 79 people in the country and crippled the rich northern regions.
As many as 8.7 million children and students will be affected from kindergarten to high schools and universities, as well as their families. Many in the afflicted regions, from Milan to Venice and Bologna, are already confined at home.
The Italian decision follows up on Japan, which is enforcing a complete school shutdown due to last until April. It will will deal a further blow to an economy that was already headed for recession. The government, according to an official, is studying a stimulus package worth 3.6 billion euros ($4 billion) and pushing its deficit above 2.4% of gross domestic product.