All of Italy in lockdown over coronavirus
The whole of Italy has been declared a "red zone" over the coronavirus outbreak, after the death toll jumped by 97 in a single day.
Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte announced restrictions on public gatherings would be extended to cover the whole country, rather than just the epicentre of the outbreak in the north.
"Restrictions will include banning all public gatherings and preventing all movement other than for work and emergencies," Mr Conte said.
Italy's death toll has risen by 97 in a single day, with disturbing photos showing patients hooked onto life support machines in hospital.
The country's death toll now sits at 463, marking a 20 per cent increase in just 24 hours.
75 per cent of the deaths are aged between 70 and 89, with 13 per cent aged over 90, 10 per cent in their 60s and just 1 per cent in their 50s.
The total number of cases in Italy has risen to 9172, the largest daily increase since the virus first emerged there on February 11.
Photos from a hospital in Cremona, the northern epicentre of the outbreak, show patients lying on hospital beds, being treated by medics in hazmat suits.
Some of the patients can be seen lying facedown, which researchers said may improve their survival chances in intensive care by providing more oxygen to the blood stream.
Officials in Italy are seeking to bring doctors out of retirement and accelerate graduation dates for medical students as the coronavirus outbreak continues to take hold.
Yet 10 per cent of Lombardy's doctors and nurses cannot work because they tested positive for the virus and are in quarantine, the regions top health official, Giulio Gallera, said overnight.
Italy is now one of the worst afflicted globally for the coronavirus. Only China and Iran have had more deaths. In contrast France, the European country with the second highest number of deaths, has recorded fewer than 20 fatalities.
The Italian government has responded by imposing a lockdown on the region of 16 million people, restricting movements in and out of Lombardy and Milan, its capital.
The draft decree says that those who violate the restrictions could be punished by a fine of 206 Euros ($A350) and jailed for up to three months.
The ban includes the closing of museums, gyms, schools, universities and ski resorts.
Giuseppe Conte, Italy's prime minister, described it as a "national emergency".
"Without underestimating it, we have chosen transparency, we are acting with lucidity, courage and determination," he said. "We want to contain the spread of the contagion and avoid overloading the hospitals."
Italian virologist Roberto Burioni described the leak as "pure madness".
"The draft of a very harsh decree is leaked, sparking panic and prompting people to try and flee the [then] theoretical red zone, carrying the virus with them," he wrote on Twitter. "In the end, the only effect is to help the virus to spread. I'm lost for words".
The World Health Organisation has said there are now more than 100,000 people across the globe infected with the COVID-19 strain of coronavirus.
Michele Emiliano, the president of Pugli, urged the panicked people not to bring the virus to Italy's south.
"I'm speaking to you as if you were my children, my brothers, my grandchildren," he said on Facebook. "Get off (the train) at the first station, don't get on the flights to Bari and Brindisi, turn your cars around, get off the bus at the next stop. Don't bring the epidemic to Puglia.
"You are carrying to the lungs of your brothers and sisters, grandparents, uncles, cousins, and parents, the virus that has severely strained the health system in northern Italy."