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Italy mulls tighter, nationwide curbs at least at weekends

Photo: ReutersPremium
Photo: Reuters

  • The second wave never stopped, we’re seeing a very strong pickup due to the variants, which is leading us to take measures that are ever-more restrictive, health minister said
  • Possible measures from mid-March include making the entire country a red zone for three or four weeks, a report said

The government of Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi is considering tighter curbs, including making the entire country a high-risk “red" zone at least during weekends, to counter a surge in the coronavirus pandemic.

“The second wave never stopped, we’re seeing a very strong pickup due to the variants, which is leading us to take measures that are ever-more restrictive," Health Minister Roberto Speranza told newspaper Corriere della Sera.

Speranza did not rule out turning the whole of Italy into a red zone at least at weekends, and a stricter curfew. “It’s clear that we will monitor the epidemiological situation, adapting the measures in the light of the variants," he said.

Italy has a three-tier system in place that classifies regions by low, medium and high-risk based on the numbers of cases. The system involves closures of bars and restaurants, and strict limits on people’s movements barring them from leaving their city or town. Several regions have already closed schools with the variants spreading faster among young people.

Among measures being considered by the government and a panel of medical and science experts are automatically turning regions into red zones if the threshold of 250 weekly virus cases per 100,000 inhabitants is breached, and closing shopping malls during the week, Italian newspapers reported on Sunday.

Possible measures from mid-March include making the entire country a red zone for three or four weeks, La Repubblica said.

Speranza told Rai3 television later on Sunday that he expects more regions to be decreed red zones in the next few weeks. He said he aims for all Italians who want to be vaccinated to have received a shot by the summer.He also said Italy is open to work with Russian authorities “to reinforce production" of the Sputnik V vaccine, once the European Medicines Agency determines that the vaccine is “safe and sure." He added: “I’m not interested in the nationality of the scientists who worked on it."

Draghi, former head of the European Central Bank, has made the vaccination effort a priority for his new administration both to slow contagion and restart an economy that contracted 8.9% last year.

The government is working on prioritizing first shots instead of holding back doses for a second inoculation, as well as recruiting the armed forces, civil protection volunteers and family doctors to help eradicate differences between regions in the pace of vaccination.

The U.K. strain of Covid-19 is now dominant in the country and cases are rising again, touching two-month highs. Italy reported 23,641 new virus cases on Saturday, and the country has so far administered 5.29 million vaccine doses, with 2.7% of the population fully vaccinated.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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