Italy: Conte says goal is to avert total lockdown

Forget about crowded Christmas lunches and parties, says Conte.

Italy's premier Giuseppe Conte says his government is doing all that it can to tackle the second wave of covid-19 while averting another "total lockdown."

"We must wait, and hold our nerve.." This is how Conte began his interview with Italian daily newspaper La Stampa, before clarifying immediately that his main goal is "to avoid total lockdown."

Acknowledging that the "curve is rising," Conte said: "I expect that in the next few days, also due to the effect of our measures, it will begin to bend."

Last week Conte introduced a three-tier system, based on a colour code according to the intensity of the epidemic, dividing Italy into red (high-risk), orange (medium risk) and yellow (lower risk) zones, with "soft lockdowns" applying in the red zones.

Conte repeated to La Stampa that a generalised lockdown in Italy "cannot be our first choice" as the costs would be "too high," adding that the government "has a strategy, and we expect it to give results soon."

Asked whether he agreed that the government had "wasted three months" in addressing shortfalls in its covid-19 response over the summer, Conte was firm in his response, rejecting outright any accusation that the government was "on holiday."

"We have doubled the intensive care beds compared to last spring, we have introduced more than 36,000 doctors and nurses into health services, we have increased the capacity to carry out swabs, reaching peaks of 230,000 in one day compared to 25,000 at the beginning of the emergency."

Conte also acknowledged the sacrifices facing citizens, both economic and personal, and said that people "deserve praise for the self-denial and sense of responsibility they have shown up to now, with rare exceptions which naturally make headlines."

However people will be asked to make further efforts, the premier told La Stampa. "The situation, throughout Europe, is serious. Everyone has to play their part."

Conte also said that he expects Christmas to be celebrated among families, "with caution," however he stressed that "we cannot imagine crowded parties and lunches."

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