Italy announces new restrictions amid covid-19 surge

New restrictions come as Italy registers 11,705 coronavirus cases in a day.

Italian premier Giuseppe Conte announced a raft of further restrictions to curb the spread of covid-19, amid a recent surge in new cases, during a televised press conference at Palazzo Chigi late on Sunday 18 October.

"We cannot waste time, we must act by putting in place the necessary measures to avert a new generalised lockdown" - said Conte, underlining once again the three fundamental rules: wearing masks, hand-washing, and social-distancing.

"The strategy is not and cannot be the same as it was in the spring,” said Conte of the new rules, which are less severe than many were expecting.

The latest emergency measures give mayors the power to close off streets or squares, where crowds have assembled, after 21.00, granting access only to businesses and local residents.

There are also new conditions for bars and restaurants, which must close by midnight. The consumption of food and drink will be permitted at tables only, and with a maximum of six people per table, from 18.00 until midnight.

Customers not seated at tables can only be served until 18.00. Takeaway service is allowed until midnight. Businesses may not reopen again until 05.00.

There will be no closures of schools, which Conte described as a "fundamental asset for our country". However high schools are asked to stagger students' entry and exit times to prevent congestion, with no entry until 09.00 and the option to extend lessons into the afternoons when many schools are normally closed.

Schools must also increase the "flexibility" of digital learning which "remains complementary to face-to-face teaching," Conte said.

Smart-working is to be actively encouraged and increased.

Contact sports at an amateur level, including competitions, remains prohibited unless authorised by officially-recognised sporting bodies.

A decision on whether to close gyms and swimming pools is set to be made later this week depending on whether or not they meet the required covid-19 prevention protocols.

Community festivals and local fairs are banned however national and international fairs remain permitted. 

Bingo halls, betting shops and amusement arcades must close by 21.00. 

Hair dressers, barbers and beauty salons will remain open, contrary to recent speculation in the Italian media.

Record numbers

Conte's announcement late on 18 October came hours after Italy's health ministry registered 11,705 new coronavirus cases, up from the nation's previous daily record of 10,925 cases the day before.

There were 69 covid-related deaths registered in Italy today, up from 47 yesterday, with 146,000 swab tests carried out, down by about 20,000 compared to yesterday.

The northern Lombardy region, which includes Milan, recorded 2,975 new infections, while the central Lazio region, which includes Rome, registered 1,198 new cases.

Last week the government imposed new restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the covid-19, including a clampdown on parties and entertaining guests at home.

Italy also extended a state of emergency until 31 January, giving authorities special powers to tackle the covid-19 crisis quickly, cutting through red tape to implement, modify or revoke urgent measures if and when required.

For official data relating to the covid-19 situation in Italy see the health ministry website.

Photo credit: Daniele COSSU / Shutterstock.com.