ROME - The boisterous hum of Rome dwindled to a whisper and police patrols kept people apart in cafes as Italy enforced an extraordinary, sweeping lockdown in hopes of not becoming the next epicenter of the spreading coronavirus epidemic now that life in China is edging back to normal.

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This article was published 9/3/2020 (843 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Empty shelves are seen at a supermarket in Paris, Monday, March 9, 2020. Global share markets have plunged as panicked investors fled to the safety of bonds and the yen to hedge the economic trauma of the coronavirus, while oil plunged more than 30 per cent after Saudi Arabia opened the taps in a price war with Russia.(AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Empty shelves are seen at a supermarket in Paris, Monday, March 9, 2020. Global share markets have plunged as panicked investors fled to the safety of bonds and the yen to hedge the economic trauma of the coronavirus, while oil plunged more than 30 per cent after Saudi Arabia opened the taps in a price war with Russia.(AP Photo/Michel Euler)

ROME - The boisterous hum of Rome dwindled to a whisper and police patrols kept people apart in cafes as Italy enforced an extraordinary, sweeping lockdown in hopes of not becoming the next epicenter of the spreading coronavirus epidemic now that life in China is edging back to normal.

Infections in Italy topped the 10,000 mark — more than anywhere but China — and the number of deaths from the virus rose Tuesday to 631 from 463 a day earlier, Italian Civil Protection authorities said.

Police across the country patrolled cafes to ensure owners kept customers 1 metre (3 feet) apart during daylight hours and then enforced a strict 6 p.m. closure order.

“It’s bad. People are terrorized,” said Massimo Leonardo, who runs a market stall. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

For most, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for a few, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia. More than 119,000 people have been infected worldwide and over 4,200 have died.

Police officers and soldiers check passengers leaving from Milan main train station, Italy, Monday, March 9, 2020. Italy took a page from China's playbook Sunday, attempting to lock down 16 million people — more than a quarter of its population — for nearly a month to halt the relentless march of the new coronavirus across Europe. Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte signed a quarantine decree early Sunday for the country's prosperous north. Areas under lockdown include Milan, Italy's financial hub and the main city in Lombardy, and Venice, the main city in the neighboring Veneto region. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Police officers and soldiers check passengers leaving from Milan main train station, Italy, Monday, March 9, 2020. Italy took a page from China's playbook Sunday, attempting to lock down 16 million people — more than a quarter of its population — for nearly a month to halt the relentless march of the new coronavirus across Europe. Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte signed a quarantine decree early Sunday for the country's prosperous north. Areas under lockdown include Milan, Italy's financial hub and the main city in Lombardy, and Venice, the main city in the neighboring Veneto region. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

By encouraging many of Italy's 62 million people to stay home and further drying up what was left of the country's already battered tourism industry, the lockdown could increase the likelihood of a recession, dealing another blow to reeling global markets.

Italy's economy, the third-largest of the 19 countries that use the euro currency, relies heavily on industries requiring the physical presence and proximity of workers: tourism, manufacturing, and retail.

Italians shouldn’t leave home unless for work, health care or “necessities” such as grocery shopping, the premier's office said. Early closures of shops, cafes and restaurants amounted to a seismic restriction in a country that prizes its gastronomy, luxuries and cafe culture.

A sign on a closed shop reads, in Italian: "We are closed. We are all in good health. We are closed only for caution. Will see you soon", in Rome, Monday, March 9, 2020. Italy announced a sweeping quarantine early Sunday for its northern regions, igniting travel chaos as it restricted the movements of a quarter of its population in a bid to halt the new coronavirus' relentless march across Europe. (Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse via AP)

A sign on a closed shop reads, in Italian: "We are closed. We are all in good health. We are closed only for caution. Will see you soon", in Rome, Monday, March 9, 2020. Italy announced a sweeping quarantine early Sunday for its northern regions, igniting travel chaos as it restricted the movements of a quarter of its population in a bid to halt the new coronavirus' relentless march across Europe. (Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse via AP)

“I’ll do whatever they tell me to do,” Rome florist Stefano Fulvi said. “If I have to close, I’ll close.”

Italy also found itself increasingly sealed off as other countries sought to keep infections contained.

Malta and Spain announced a ban on air traffic from Italy. British Airways and Air Canada suspended all Italy flights. Austria barred travellers from crossing the border without a medical certificate. Slovenia closed its border with Italy, and Albania banned Italy air and ferry traffic. Britain, Ireland, Hong Kong and Germany strengthened travel advisories and urged their citizens to leave. Even the Vatican erected a new barricade at the edge of St. Peter’s Square.

A general view of signs about coronavirus in the city of Mulhouse, eastern France, Monday March 9, 2020. The French government announced last Friday reinforced measures to slow down the spreading of the coronavirus in the two most affected regions, north of Paris and at the German border. In the cluster of the Haut-Rhin region in eastern France, authorities issued a ban on all gatherings except those "essential to social and democratic life" and the most fragile people are advised to stay home. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

A general view of signs about coronavirus in the city of Mulhouse, eastern France, Monday March 9, 2020. The French government announced last Friday reinforced measures to slow down the spreading of the coronavirus in the two most affected regions, north of Paris and at the German border. In the cluster of the Haut-Rhin region in eastern France, authorities issued a ban on all gatherings except those "essential to social and democratic life" and the most fragile people are advised to stay home. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

"Get out of northern Italy if you’re there,” said Erik Broegger Rasmussen, head of consular services for Denmark’s foreign ministry.

But in China, the diminishing threat prompted President Xi Jinping to visit the central city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, on Tuesday and declare: "We will certainly defeat this epidemic."

It was the latest sign that China is edging back toward normal after weeks of extreme quarantine measures. A day after Xi's visit to Wuhan, China reported just 24 new infections Wednesday, down from thousands each day last month.

The Grand Princess docks at the Port of Oakland in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, March 9, 2020. The cruise ship, which had maintained a holding pattern off the coast for days, is carrying multiple people who tested positive for COVID-19, a disease caused by the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The Grand Princess docks at the Port of Oakland in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, March 9, 2020. The cruise ship, which had maintained a holding pattern off the coast for days, is carrying multiple people who tested positive for COVID-19, a disease caused by the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

“Things are slowly returning to normal," said Yang Tianxiao, a finance worker in Beijing, where the city government is gradually easing restrictions.

In a reversal of positions, China is seeing new cases brought in from overseas. In Beijing, the capital, all the new cases of COVID-19 reported on Wednesday came from outside the country, five from Italy and one from the United States.

Improving reports continued to come from South Korea, too, with 242 new cases reported Wednesday, a considerable drop from its highs.

Marty Shape, left, talks to his mother, Judy Shape, right, on the phone as they look at each other through her window, Monday, March 9, 2020, at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash., near Seattle. In-person visits at the facility are not allowed, as the nursing home is at the center of the outbreak of the coronavirus in Washington state. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Marty Shape, left, talks to his mother, Judy Shape, right, on the phone as they look at each other through her window, Monday, March 9, 2020, at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash., near Seattle. In-person visits at the facility are not allowed, as the nursing home is at the center of the outbreak of the coronavirus in Washington state. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

But in growing swaths of the globe, virus-related disruptions were increasingly the new normal. More than 100 countries — over half of the United Nations' membership — have now confirmed cases.

France's government advised voters to bring their own pens to local elections Sunday so they won't have to share. The United Nations announced the closure of its New York headquarters complex to the general public. Albania told its citizens to stay home — banning public gatherings and shuttering schools, entertainment centres, gymnasiums and public pools.

The virus reached into the corridors of power. In the United States, several senior politicians were self-quarantined, and in Spain, a leading member of a far-right party tested positive for the virus. A British health minister became the first UK lawmaker to be diagnosed with the disease.

A man stands on the roof of the San Vittore prison as some inmates stage a protest against new rules to cope with coronavirus emergency, in Milan, Italy, Monday, March 9, 2020. Italy took a page from China's playbook Sunday, attempting to lock down 16 million people — more than a quarter of its population — for nearly a month to halt the relentless march of the new coronavirus across Europe. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

A man stands on the roof of the San Vittore prison as some inmates stage a protest against new rules to cope with coronavirus emergency, in Milan, Italy, Monday, March 9, 2020. Italy took a page from China's playbook Sunday, attempting to lock down 16 million people — more than a quarter of its population — for nearly a month to halt the relentless march of the new coronavirus across Europe. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

At least two top European military commanders also tested positive after a conference on an American military base in Germany, and the commander of U.S. Army in Europe isolated himself in case he also was exposed.

New York’s governor announced he is sending the National Guard to scrub public places and deliver food in a New York City suburb that is at the centre of the nation's biggest known cluster of infections.

In Washington state, where 19 of its 24 deaths have been connected to a Seattle-area nursing home, Gov. Jay Inslee announced new rules for screening health care workers and limiting visitors at nursing homes. Inslee was planning a news conference for Wednesday morning to announce a ban on gatherings of more than 250 people, a person involved in planning the decision told The Associated Press.

A woman uses excersise equipment on the Grand Princess, a cruise ship carrying multiple people who have tested positive for COVID-19, after docking at the Port of Oakland in Oakland, Calif., Monday, March 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

A woman uses excersise equipment on the Grand Princess, a cruise ship carrying multiple people who have tested positive for COVID-19, after docking at the Port of Oakland in Oakland, Calif., Monday, March 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

And in California, thousands of restless passengers stuck on a cruise ship hit by the coronavirus waited their turn to get off the vessel and head to U.S. military bases or their home countries for two weeks of quarantine.

Worldwide, growing numbers of children were being taught online as school closures spread. The outbreak has interrupted schooling for nearly 363 million students worldwide, with 15 countries imposing nationwide school closures and 14 implementing localized closures, the U.N.'s education agency said.

The virus has shaken global markets. U.S. stocks, oil and other financial markets around the world went on another wild ride Tuesday, clawing back ground after their historic plunge the previous day.

Pope Francis waves briefly from his window overlooking St. Peter's Square after delivering the Angelus prayer on a giant screen in St. Peter's Square aimed at discouraging crowds, at the Vatican, Sunday, March 8, 2020. The pope in his streamed remarks said he was close in prayers to those suffering from the virus and to those caring for them. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Pope Francis waves briefly from his window overlooking St. Peter's Square after delivering the Angelus prayer on a giant screen in St. Peter's Square aimed at discouraging crowds, at the Vatican, Sunday, March 8, 2020. The pope in his streamed remarks said he was close in prayers to those suffering from the virus and to those caring for them. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Investors are likely to see more big swings until the number of infections slows down, and fear was still rampant that economies stood at the brink of recession, market watchers said.

“We are in a global panic," said Estelle Brack, an economist in Paris. “We are in the deep unknown.”

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AC Milan's Samu Castillejo kicks from the corner in an empty stadium during the Serie A soccer match between AC Milan and Genoa at the San Siro stadium, in Milan, Italy, Sunday, March 8, 2020. Serie A played on Sunday despite calls from Italy’s sports minister and players’ association president to suspend the games in Italy’s top soccer division. (Spada/LaPresse via AP)

AC Milan's Samu Castillejo kicks from the corner in an empty stadium during the Serie A soccer match between AC Milan and Genoa at the San Siro stadium, in Milan, Italy, Sunday, March 8, 2020. Serie A played on Sunday despite calls from Italy’s sports minister and players’ association president to suspend the games in Italy’s top soccer division. (Spada/LaPresse via AP)

Leicester reported from Paris. Associated Press writers Matt Sedensky in Bangkok; Colleen Barry in Soave, Italy; Antonio Calanni in Milan; Ken Moritsugu in Beijing; Carlo Piovano in London; David Rising in Berlin; and Thomas Adamson in Paris contributed to this report.

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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak