Italy tightens covid-19 restrictions amid new wave

Schools, restaurants, shops and museums set to close in half of Italy from Monday as nation faces "new wave" of covid-19 and a second Easter under lockdown.

Italy is to be split between high-risk red zones and medium-risk orange zones, under the nation's tiered system of coronavirus restrictions, from 15 March.

The move, which will effectively see half the country placed under lockdown from Monday, comes amid a sharp rise in new cases and increasing pressure on intensive care units in most regions.

Speaking during a visit to a covid-19 vaccination hub at Rome's Fiumicino airport this afternoon, Italy's premier Mario Draghi said: "Unfortunately, one year after the start of the emergency, there is a new wave of contagion." 

Accompanying Draghi was the governor of Lazio, Nicola Zingaretti, who confirmed that the Lazio region - which includes Rome - will be classified as a maxium level red zone from 15 March.

Under Italy's updated list of colour-coded zones, the following regions will become red zones from Monday: Basilicata, Campania, Emilia Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lazio (Rome), Lombardia (Milan), Marche, Molise, Piemonte, Puglia, Veneto and the autonomous province of Trento.

The rest of Italy's regions will be classified as medium-risk orange zones, with the exception of Sardinia which remains in the lowest-risk white zone category. There will be no regions in the lower-risk yellow zones from 15 March.

In red zones, non-essential shops, hairdressers, restaurants and museums are closed. All schools are closed (including kindergartens) with distance learning applying from elementary school onwards.

People are restricted from leaving their homes unless for urgent or necessary reasons such as work or health. Food shops and pharmacies remain open.

On top of the regional measures, red zone restrictions will apply nationwide from 3-5 April, effectively placing the country under a national lockdown over the Easter holiday weekend. 

The new restrictions, approved by the Italian government in tandem with regional authorities, are due to be signed into effect this evening.

From 15 March until 5 April, regions with more than 250 weekly cases per 100,000 inhabitants will automatically be classified as red zones.

"In the last week there have been more than 150,000 infections, compared to 131,000 the previous week, an increase of almost 5,000 people in hospital and 600 in intensive care," Draghi said today, adding:

“The memory of what happened last spring is vivid, and we will do everything to prevent it from happening again.” 

This evening, 12 March, Italy's health ministry recorded 26,824 new covid-19 cases and 380 deaths over the last 24 hours.