Italy approves new restrictions over Christmas as daily deaths hit record high

Italy has approved tough new restrictions to avoid another surge in coronavirus infections over Christmas after recording the highest number of daily deaths since the pandemic began.

There were 993 Covid-related deaths and 23,225 new cases registered on Thursday.

The previous record of 919 daily deaths was recorded on March 27, at the peak of the first wave.

Italy was the first Western country to be hit by the virus and more than 58,000 people have died since its outbreak in February, the second highest toll in Europe after the UK.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that from December 21 to January 6, people will only be allowed to move between Italy’s 20 regions for work, medical reasons or emergencies. On Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, they cannot even leave their towns.

In a televised evening news conference, Conte said current curbs which are staggered around the country according to local infection rates were producing good results, but the Christmas holidays threatened to cause a new spike in cases.

Urging people not to have guests over during the festive period, he said: ‘It’s clear this will be a Christmas that is different from the others but it will be no less authentic.’

What are the new restrictions?

Under current measures, the country is divided into three zones with different restrictions according to their respective infection rates.

Gyms, cinemas and theatres are closed nationwide, with restaurants and bars ordered to shut at 6pm and all high school classes held remotely.

Here are some of the new measures.

Limits on movement

From December 21 to January 6, people will only be allowed to move between Italy’s 20 regions allowed for work, medical reasons or emergencies.

They will not be permitted to leave their towns on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

Pedestrians walk in the center of Rome (Picture: EPA)

The current curfew from 10pm to 5am will be extended until 7am on New Year’s Eve, when hotels will only serve dinner via room service.

Anyone entering Italy from abroad must quarantine for 14 days.

Mass

The curfew does not permit the traditional Christmas midnight mass, which must be brought forward to early evening.

Shopping

Shops can remain open until 9pm until January 6, but large shopping centres must shut at weekends.

A shop assistant works in a Christmas store in Rome (Picture: Reuters)

Ski resorts and cruises

Ski resorts will remain closed to amateur skiers until January 7.

They will only be allowed to reopen from that date if they have implemented adequate social distancing measures.

All cruises will be suspended from December 21 to January 6.

Schools

Face-to-face teaching will be reintroduced for 75% of high school classes from January 7.

The rest will remain online.

Younger children will continue to attend school in person as they do at present.

Italy recorded another 814 deaths and 24,099 new infections on Friday.

New cases remain highest in Lombardy, the epicenter of both the spring peak and the autumn surge, with 4,533 new cases.

Neighboring Veneto followed with more than 3,700.

There were 201 fewer new admissions to Italy’s intensive care units than a day earlier, dropping the total to 3,657 in ICU. The number of patients in hospital dropped by 600 to 31,200.

In total, Italy has recorded 1.6 million cases and 58,842 confirmed deaths.

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