Rome: In an extraordinary measure to halt the spread of the deadly coronavirus that is sweeping the globe, more than 15 million people were placed under forced quarantine in northern Italy on Sunday. The drastic move comes as Italy has recorded the most deaths from the COVID-19 disease after China. Also Read - PM Modi's Dhaka Trip Cancelled Amid Coronavirus Outbreak & Protests in Bangladesh

The country on Sunday recorded the second-highest coronavirus toll in the world, after reporting a sharp jump in deaths, from 133 to 366, overtaking South Korea on infections.  The number of cases also jumped from 5,883 to 7,375 during the same period. Also Read - Ahead of PM Modi's Visit, Bangladesh Confirms Its First 3 Cases of Coronavirus

Until April 3, people will be barred from entering or leaving vast areas of northern Italy without a valid and urgent reason to do so, according to a decree signed off by the prime minister overnight and published online.

These quarantine zones are home to more than 15 million people and include the regions around Venice and financial capital Milan, while cinemas, theatres and museums will be closed nationwide.

Police will be setting up controls at train stations to check people’s temperatures, and stopping all cars on main roads in and out to verify the reason for travel, the ministry said in a statement.

Anyone flouting the lockdown will either have to pay a 206 euro ($233) fine or risk at least three months in jail.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called the measures ‘very rigorous’ but remarked that it is necessary to contain the contagion and ease the burden on Italy’s strained health care system.

The sudden move has sparked chaos and confusion in the country, with local politicians and leaders reacting angrily to the decree. Regional leaders said they were caught off-guard and that implementing the rules so suddenly would be impossible, meanwhile, people were worried about their jobs and family.