Rome, Oct 19 : Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced that his government has approved fresh anti-coronavirus curbs after more than 11,000 new cases were reported in just 24 hours.
“The curve of contagion is worrisome, the numbers are serious, and there is a need to intervene urgently,” Xinhua news agency quoted Conte as saying at a televised press conference on Sunday.
“We just approved new measures that should allow us to face this new wave of infections, which is severely affecting not only Italy but the whole of Europe,” he said.
The death toll currently stood at 36,543.
“We cannot waste time,” Conte said. “We must act by fielding all the measures necessary to avert a new generalized lockdown… which would end up severely compromising the entire economic fabric.”
He spoke in reference to Italy’s March to May nationwide lockdown, which brought the country’s economy to a halt.
The Prime Minister also detailed the new measures, which include giving city mayors the option of shutting down busy streets and squares after 9 p.m. in a bid to prevent public gatherings; a ban on amateur contact sports; and the suspension of all local fairs, festivals, conferences and congresses.
Pubs, bars, restaurants, pizzerias and ice cream shops can be open for business between the hours of 5 a.m. to midnight, as long as customers are seated.
If the customers are standing, then these venues can only serve until 6 p.m., while gaming and betting venues must close at 9 p.m.
“Deliveries are allowed at all times, and takeout is allowed until midnight,” Conte said.
Schools will stay open, with flexible hours for high schools and universities in order to encourage staggered schedules.
“We are aware that we are imposing economic sacrifices to the businesses that will suffer the negative consequences of these closures, and the government is committed to making up for them,” Conte said.
He said since the beginning of the pandemic here in late February, Italy has hired 34,000 additional health care workers, more than doubled its ICU beds, and went from zero production to producing 20 million surgical face masks a day.
“We are among the few countries in the world to distribute one free surgical mask per day to every student in 18,000 schools, as well as 7 million masks a day to hospitals, elderly nursing homes, and police forces.
“We never let down our guard. Now we must act to safeguard health but also the economy,” the Prime Minister noted.
He further reiterated the key importance of the three basic tenets of face masks, hand hygiene and social distancing which every citizen must observe, and added that “we must continue making these sacrifices” until a vaccine becomes available to all.
“The situation is critical. Everyone must do his or her part so that all together we can overcome this difficult moment.”
Also on Sunday, the Ministry of Health reported that the Lombardy region, whose capital is Milan and where the pandemic first emerged in late February, was still the worst-hit among Italy’s 20 regions with 2,975 new infections over the past 24 hours.
Lombardy was followed by Piedmont, Lazio region where Rome is located, and Campania whose capital is Naples, all with over 1,000 new cases compared to Saturday.
At the other end of the spectrum was the Molise region with the lowest number of new infections, at 27 cases.