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From Milan to Palermo in Sicily, few people are even venturing out for a coffee in the local bar

Bar Il SantAndrea is something of a barometer for the liveliness of Orvieto, a hilltop town of about 4,000 people in Italys central Umbria region. On a typical morning, it would be buzzing with customers having coffee, chatting or reading the newspapers.

On Tuesday, however, as news that the whole of Italy was to be put under lockdown sunk in, only a handful of regulars called in. Think about it this way, said the barman, Francesco Maggi. On Sunday, five of us were working. Today, there is only one.

The prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, told 60 million Italians late on Monday to stay at home as the government introduced measures unprecedented in peacetime to contain Europes worst outbreak of the coronavirus.

Contes message is starting to reverberate. The hashtag #iostoacasa I stay at home accompanied by images of home-cooked meals or a good book, has been shared by thousands on social media.

In Orvieto, a town heavily dependent on tourism, bars and shops were already laying down duct tape to ensure customers stand at least a metre apart before Monday nights announcement.

The mood on Tuesday morning was sombre but, unlike in other places across Italy, there was no sense of panic. People were walking around, some wearing masks or with scarves wrapped around their mouths.

A man gets his hair cut in Naples. Photograph: Ciro Fusco/EPA

People are definitely taking it more seriously, said Federico Badia, a shoemaker. They are staying home and only going out if necessary. But I am very worried about the future of a little town like Orvieto, as most of the businesses survive on tourism. If the season doesnt start in a month or so, I dont think well be having a season at all.

Other inhabitants were perplexed by the quarantine rules. It is very confusing, said Toni DeBella, a US resident. You have to stay home, but you can go to a bar. Transportation is running, but youre not supposed to go anywhere.

Under the quarantine regulations all forms of public gathering, include sporting events, have been banned, as have weddings and funerals. Theatres, cinemas, museums, gyms, spas and ski resorts have been closed. Only bars and restaurants can open, but only between 6am and 6pm. Travel is to be avoided unless it is for urgent, verifiable work situations and emergencies health reasons.

This is not an armoured shutdown like in China, said Matteo Renzi, a former prime minister and the leader of Italia Viva, one of the parties that makes up the government majority. There is space for movement for people who have urgent needs. We need to reduce the contagion to a minimum, not only because of the death rate but also because the impact on the health system is colossal. Intensive care units are filling up and if you have a stroke or heart attack, you cant be treated.

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St Peter’s Square before and after Italy’s coronavirus lockdown video

Life in major cities, including Rome, Milan and Venice, has come to a standstill. You can really see the difference in Rome today compared to yesterday, said Sabina Colombo, a consultant who works from home. It is very quiet. If I go out I wear plastic gloves, I couldnt find a face mask anywhere.

In this type of situation there has to be a sense of civic responsibility and punishments for people who dont respect the rules those who do break them dont care about the elderly dying, or those with cancer and low immunity.

Kelly Medford, a US artist living in Rome, said: There has definitely been a change of mood over the last 24 hours. I think were all a little bit shocked as it really hits home just how dire the situation is.

In southern Italy, the region of Campania had the highest number of coronavirus cases as of Monday with 126, followed by Sicily with 60. Shortly after news of the lockdown broke, hundreds of people poured into one of the few supermarkets in the Sicilian capital of Palermo that is open 24 hours.

By Tuesday morning, the streets of the city were mostly silent, apart from the hubbub at supermarkets and chemists as people joined long queues to buy essentials such as water, pasta and disinfectant.

Stress, confusion and anxiety about the virus and the new rules was palpable. I wore a face mask for the first time this morning, and saw other people wearing them too, said Federica Montalba, an education coordinator. What we saw on TV yesterday has arrived here today.

Im not afraid of catching the virus, but Im afraid of passing it on to my family who live an hour from here. I havent visited them since the first case was recorded in Palermo. What worries me most are people and their ignorance. Some people have not yet understood that we are facing an emergency and continue to act as if nothing has happened.

As the number of coronavirus cases across Italy continues to rise, Simona DAlessi, a doctor at Palermos Benfratelli hospital, said there was a risk of very high contagion in hospitals.

We are running out of masks and gloves. People keep coming to the emergency room. Doctors cant take holidays, because theres an emergency and people need us, but I dont know how long we can go on like this.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/10/were-a-bit-shocked-italians-on-life-under-coronavirus-lockdown