"We are not underestimating anything and always acting based on the worst-case scenario."
He tweeted (translation), "This is the time for rediscovery. Of the value of a hug, of the importance of looking in the eyes, of the warmth of a handshake. Best wishes to the dads of Italy, in particular to those who are distant from their children today. We will soon be hugging stronger than before"
Questo è il tempo della riscoperta. Del valore di un abbraccio, dell’importanza di guardarsi negli occhi, del calore di una stretta di mano. Auguri ai papà d’Italia, in particolare a quelli che oggi sono distanti dai propri figli. Presto torneremo a stringerci più forte di prima pic.twitter.com/lgiUwt9v2T
— Giuseppe Conte (@GiuseppeConteIT) March 19, 2020
Conte enjoys overwhelming support from Italians for a lockdown that -- while not as draconian as China's quarantine of Wuhan's Hubei province -- seemed unimaginable for a Western democracy until this month.
A poll published in the daily La Repubblica found that 47 per cent viewed the closure of most businesses and all shools and public institutions "positively".
Another 47 per cent viewed them "very positively" and just four percent said they were opposed.
Some of Conte's strictest measures -- such as the closure of all shops except for grocery stores and pharmacies -- had been due to expire next Wednesday.
The Italian leader was adamant that an extension of all these precautions was inevitable.
He said no new restrictions were being considered but warned: "If our prohibitions are not respected, we will have to act."
Schools are thus unlikely to reopen on April 3 and working parents will have to find ways to look after their children while working from home for many more weeks or months.
is imposing 206 euro ($222) fines for anyone found wandering the streets without a valid excuse such as grocery shopping or getting to and from work.
Police in Rome repeat periodic instructions out of megaphones for everyone to "stay home and maintain distance" from each other.
Some stores are ordering shoppers to put on disposable plastic gloves.
The northern region of Emilia-Romagna took the extra step late Wednesday of banning jogging and walks -- exercise that the national government in Rome had encouraged for health reasons.
Conte's most tangible response to the crisis has involved putting together a 25-billion-euro ($28 billion) economic rescue package designed to help the worst affected industries.
The tourism operators' union said Thursday it expected the number of visitors to drop to levels last seen in the mid-1960s.
But Conte looked for the silver lining in the disaster.
The crisis has forced ministers to "make the biggest effort in dozens of years to simplify the investment process -- something that nobody (in Italy) has ever done," Conte said.