Giacomo Agostini passed through one of the most dangerous periods in motorcycle grand prix history, on his way to winning a record 13 world championships in the 1960s and '70s.

But the 77-year-old now faces a different and very unexpected kind of fear, living in one of the regions of Northern Italy (Brescia and Bergamo) most badly hit by the coronavirus.

"It's terrible," Agostini told "I decided to come back to Bergamo and stay under 'house arrest' because this is where I've lived for many years and all my things are here. I didn't want to go away.

"But the situation is very critical: I have a lump in my throat at night when I hear the [ambulance] sirens passing by. It is a very sad situation, especially in Bergamo which is the epicentre."

The 122-time grand prix winner added that it is "terrifying [to see] the army trucks take coffins away… we would never have thought of experiencing a situation like this in 2020."

In terms of his own welfare, Agostini - who retired from racing in 1977 - admitted to "a little fear, given the suffering the sick feel, the way they die... But I also have confidence, because I've shut myself in the house, I respect the rules, and everyone should respect them.

"It is a big sacrifice but if we all do it together, we will get out of it."

Asked about those that continue to flout government advice by going outside to visit the park or beach, Agostini gave a clear message:

"They are stupid. It doesn't matter if they say 'I am alone so [it's okay]'. You are only alone because someone else, unlike you, respects the rules! I don't think it's correct. Each of us must make a personal sacrifice. Only by staying united will we win this war."

Ago is occupying some of his own time in confinement by organising thousands of photos from his racing career: "It's nice to remember some places, some people, from long ago."

For the current grand prix riders looking to add to their own trophy collections and memories this year, Agostini suspects it will be a 'long time' before the delayed 2020 World Championship can finally start.

"We have to understand that this was an inconceivable misfortune: I would never have thought, given the level of medicine and technology, a virus could bring us to our knees. We will be able to defeat it, but for now we only see dead people, every day. It is a great sorrow," he said.

"We will get out of it, but it will be a long time, because when it passes we will not be able to immediately go back to the old ways. For a grand prix and other sporting events, we cannot think of bringing together tens of thousands of people, because the world is in crisis, not just Italy.

"This is the big problem: even when the infections start to drop, there will still be sick people, so we will have to wait not only for the transmission to stop, but for everyone to be healed."

However, Agostini, whose premier-class record of eight titles (seven with MV Agusta and one with Yamaha) is being reeled in by reigning six-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez, doesn't think it will alter the outcome of this year's world championship.

"They will all be a little less fit at the start: instead of lapping in 1'30 they will lap in 1'31, but the best will always win."

Riders will need to be especially careful to avoid even a small injury should a long run of back-to-back races materialise.

Agostini also isn't sure that it's logistically possible to always go straight from one race to the next, although from the physical side "it's tiring, but one race a week can be done."

Italy has recorded almost 60,000 cases of the coronavirus - including over 5,000 deaths, the most of any country.