ROME, March 11 (Xinhua) -- The Trevi Fountain, the largest Baroque fountain in Italian capital Rome and one of the most famous fountains in the world, was sealed off on Tuesday as part of a wider effort exerted by Italy to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed 631 people in the country.
Appearing in several notable films, such as Roman Holiday and The Sweet Life, the fountain in the center of the city is not only a landmark but also symbolizes the Italian capital's vibrant history.
Its closure, taken by the government as a measure to avoid people gathering, dampened some Italians to some extent despite their tolerance.
"I heard all about the lockdown and I know there's a crisis, but it really hit home when I couldn't even see the Trevi Fountain," Stefania Risi, a 39-year-old accountant from Bergamo in northern Italy, told Xinhua.
Risi is now stuck in Rome due to the nationwide lockdown put by the government since Tuesday. The lockdown requirs people like Risi to seek special permission to travel within the country.
"I thought I'd make the most of it and go for a walk," Risi said on her way back to her sister's house. "Of course I would stay away from crowds and wash my hands and do all the things the authorities suggest. But I couldn't even do that (for a walk)."
Italy decided to put the entire country in lockdown until April 3, restricting people movements, closing schools, museums and prohibiting sporting events, concerts and cinemas.
The authorities encourage people to stay at home. Essential businesses like supermarkets and pharmacies are open but are restricting access to keep crowd sizes small.
While calling on the public to resist panic, the authorities explained that the restriction on movement is an unfortunate but necessary step to contain the virus.
As of Tuesday, Italian authorities said that more than 8,500 people in the country have tested positive for the virus and 631 people have died.
The numbers have made Italy the hardest-hit country outside China.
"Everyone feels pressure and anxiety from this kind of rapid and dramatic change of circumstances," Alessandro Amadori, a psychologist and the vice-president and head of quantitative research for the Piepoli Institute, an opinion research organization, said in an interview. "But from a psychological perspective, fear of the coronavirus is creating a second disease at least as damaging as the virus itself: economic uncertainty."
Economists say it is still too early to predict the full impact the spread of the virus will have on the Italian economy. But it will be significant.
The Italian Stock Exchange lost nearly 15 percent of its value in the first two sessions this week and the economic slowdown that sparked selloff has clouded the fate of many of the country's 6.2 million companies, the vast majority of them with fewer than a half dozen employees.
"When there is a protracted crisis, these (smaller) companies will suffer more than larger companies," Alessandro Poll, a professor of economic statistics at Rome's Sapienza University, told Xinhua. "If the coronavirus crisis lasts another two or three months or more, I worry that a large number of these smaller companies will be crippled or fail."