Italy registers 28,632 new covid cases in 24 hours.
A sharp rise in new covid-19 infections in Italy the week before Christmas has led major cities including Rome and Naples to cancel New Year festivities.
On Friday Italy registered 28,632 new covid positive cases over the last 24 hours (up from 26,109 cases the day before and 20,497 last Friday), according to the latest health ministry data.
This is the highest daily figure since late November 2020, reports newspaper Corriere della Sera, which points out that it is also the largest number of new covid cases since the advent of vaccines.
On 26 November 2020 there were 29,000 cases recorded, according to news agency ANSA, however the number of covid-related deaths that day was far higher - 822 - compared to the 120 fatalities registered on Friday.
ANSA also reported that the covid positivity rate is 4.27 per cent, up from 3.6 per cent the day before, with hospitalisation and intensive care cases on the rise.
Italy's emergency coronavirus commissioner General Francesco Paolo Figliuolo has appealed to people to get the third 'booster' dose in the face of the Omicron variant, as well as vaccinate their children, calling on Italians to be "responsible" over the busy Christmas period.
Figliuolo's calls were echoed by Gianni Rezza, the health ministry's director of prevention, who urged the Italian public to avoid large gatherings during the festive season.
The Delta variant is still dominant in Italy, which has so far confirmed only 55 cases of Omicron, said the head of Italy's Higher Health Institute (ISS), Silvio Brusaferro, on Friday.
The spike in new cases comes despite Italy's new Super Green Pass rules and the fact that more than 85 per cent of the population over the age of 12 is now double-vaccinated.
The majority of Italy remains in the lowest-risk 'white' zone, with minimal restrictions, under Italy's colour-coded system of coronavirus regulations.
There are currently three regions in the low-moderate 'yellow' zone where stricter rules apply: Alto Adige, Fruili-Venezia Giulia and Calabria, however from Monday 20 December this number will increase to seven with the addition of Marche, Veneto, Liguria and Trentino.
The threat of yellow zone restrictions, which take into account covid incidence rates, hangs over the regions of Emilia-Romagna, Lazio (Rome) and Lombardia (Milan), for the New Year.
This has led Rome to cancel a planned New Year's Eve concert at the Circus Maximus, with mayor Roberto Gualtieri saying his adminstration would "prioritise the health of citizens," ANSA reports.
Vincenzo De Luca, the governor of the Campania region around Naples, has banned outdoor public get-togethers on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve as well as prohibiting the consumption of food and drink on the street, reports newspaper La Repubblica.
"Gatherings of tens of thousands of people without masks and a little wired, as is inevitable on New Year's Eve, should be avoided" - De Luca said - "For the madness of a week...to then have to close everything for months after New Year."
Yellow zone restrictions require the outdoor wearing of masks, something that many cities in white zones - including Rome and Milan - have already introduced over Christmas in central shopping areas.
For official information about the covid-19 situation in Italy - in English - see the health ministry website.
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