Coronavirus: Kiwis in Italy face severe restrictions in nationwide lockdown

Italy is grappling with "a complete change of life" as citizens and visitors alike are confined to four walls amid the country's unprecedented, nationwide lockdown, says one Kiwi resident.

In a televised address to the nation on Tuesday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced severe restrictions on movement and travel as Italy battles a rampant outbreak of COVID-19. 

As of Wednesday (NZT), Italy's death toll stands at 631 with 10,149 reported cases.

Now, a 60-million-strong population is effectively confined to their places of residence, including Kiwi Annabella Garwood.

"It's a complete change of life for me and for everybody else here," Garwood told Newshub.

The streets surrounding Garwood's apartment in the northern city of Riggio Emilia are deserted, locals only risking a step outside for essentials, work and emergencies.

"Some had scarves up to their face, their hands over their face... they'd [do] what they had to do and go straight home. It just felt like a ghost town," Garwood explained.

Schools and universities will remain closed until April 3. Sporting events have been suspended and all non-essential travel is prohibited. Employees are encouraged to take annual leave or work from home.

"I'm literally on a rollercoaster... I don't have control and I've just got to accept that," Garwood said.

Italy's outbreak of the novel coronavirus is worsening. Within two days 230 people have died from COVID-19, with more than 50 percent of the infected currently hospitalised. 

The healthcare system is struggling to keep up with the influx of patients, while escalating riots are exacerbating tensions. Inmates, provoked by the ban on visitors, continue to protest the prohibitions while their families fuel the violence outside of prison walls.

Holidaying New Zealanders Elinor Harper-Spiller and her partner can only leave their Rome hotel for medical or employment reasons. 

Although permitted to travel to Florence as they originally planned, the couple will still be confined to a hotel.

"You can move hotel to hotel but not leave the hotel wherever you are," she told RNZ. "It's difficult for us to get information at the moment."

Joanne Gillespie, a teacher originally from Nelson who has resided in Italy for 20 years, has been working from home since schools were closed last week.

Gillespie's mother was admitted to hospital in New Zealand over the weekend.

"I can't even go to the next village without a certificate so I don't think they're going to let me fly home," she told RNZ.

"At the mass on Sunday morning, people were sitting some distance from each other... there was no hand-shaking, no kissing, no touching. We're all experimenting with different types of greetings that don't involve being close to people.

"It's hard for Italians not to go in for the double-cheek kiss - that's really difficult."

Garwood also worries that Italy's warm and passionate culture is being quashed by the stringent restrictions. 

"Today was the first day in nearly a year since I've been here that I saw the heart of the Italian culture completely stripped away."