Since Monday the country has enacted a set of sweeping measures which have left millions virtually confined to their homes and shut down large parts of the economy
Rome (AFP) - Italians were spending their first weekend under lockdown Saturday, with only the odd jogger or dog-walker visible on pavements otherwise emptied in an attempt to contain Europe's worst coronavirus outbreak.
On Saturday evening authorities said 3,497 cases had been recorded in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 21,157.
The death toll now stands at 1,441, up from 1,266 on Friday.
Since Monday the country has enacted a set of sweeping measures which have left millions virtually confined to their homes and shut down large parts of the economy.
However, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte insisted on Saturday that "Italy is not stopping" after a marathon all-night meeting with unions and businesses where security procedures were agreed to protect those Italians still going to work.
Italian media report that the government is expected this weekend to announce details of further measures to soften the shock to the economy, including moratoriums on loan payments, extending tax deadlines and making sure self-isolation is covered under sick leave.
The spate of measures curbing almost every aspect of daily life has nonetheless continued.
World-famous car maker Ferrari has announced that it would suspend production for two weeks at two factories in northern Italy due to supply chain problems.
City authorities in Milan and Rome decided as of Saturday to shut enclosed parks and gardens to prevent people gathering at close quarters.
However, larger open spaces such as Rome's 80-hectare Villa Borghese will remain open as long as visitors remain a metre apart, as physical exercise is one of reasons for movement deemed "essential" under the new rules.
Rome's historic centre was once again almost completely deserted on Saturday, with empty buses among the few vehicles on the roads.
The interior ministry said that preliminary figures for Friday showed that more than 157,000 people had been checked by police and that almost 7,000 would be referred to magistrates for not adhering to the restrictions on movement.
The mayor of the southern city of Bari posted a video on his social media channels of himself personally telling the few people in one of the city's parks to go home.
Travel remains greatly reduced, with the last service from Rome's Ciampino airport -- a Ryanair flight to Nuremberg -- leaving on Friday night before the facility shut to passenger traffic until further notice.
The capital's bigger Fiumicino airport is still running but its Terminal 1 will be closed on Tuesday.
- 'Solidarity and prayer' -
Meanwhile, according to Italy's civil protection department, the outbreak is showing signs of easing in the eleven towns in the north which were the first to be put under quarantine last month.
But authorities are worried that a new wave of cases could follow the events of the last weekend, when crowds of visitors descended on beaches and ski resorts in the north despite the isolation measures.
In the latest of several such cases, police in Rome said on Saturday morning that they had seized a batch of home-made face masks which contravened product standards. A further 700 masks for sale at inflated prices were also confiscated.
But the crisis is also bringing out examples of social solidarity, with many Italians taking to their balconies on Friday night to sing in unison and raise morale.
Italians are being encouraged to repeat the initiative on Saturday evening and at midday some could be seen responding to another call on social media to applaud at their windows in appreciation of health workers fighting the disease.
For its part, the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere will start a daily ringing of its bells at 8pm, along with all the other churches in the quarter, "in an expression of affinity, solidarity and prayer" with all those affected by the virus.