Omicron: Italian cities cancel New Year's Eve parties

New Year plans cancelled in cities across Italy amid concerns over Omicron covid variant.

Florence has become the latest Italian city to cancel its New Year's Eve plans amid a sharp rise in new covid-19 infections in Italy and concerns over the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Calling for the "utmost caution to prevent any possible deterioration", Florence mayor Dario Nardella cancelled planned festivities in the city and ordered the wearing of masks outdoors.

He also invited residents of the Tuscan capital to "avoid private parties if not in small numbers and possibly with Green Passes and masks."

Similar measures were announced on Wednesday by Giorgio Gori, mayor of the northern city of Bergamo, who ordered masks to be worn outdoors every day from 10.00 to 22.00 (and New Year's Eve until 02.00), with the rules in force until 9 January 2022.

The moves by Florence and Bergamo follow a spate of cancelled parties and mask mandates in other Italian cities - including Milan, Turin and Bologna - ahead of new restrictions expected to be announced by the government on Thursday 23 December.

Rome mayor Roberto Gualtieri scrapped plans for a New Year's Eve concert at the Circus Maximus, pledging to "prioritise the health of citizens," while the governor of the surrounding Lazio region, Nicola Zingaretti, brought in outdoor mask rules from 23 December until 23 January.

The president of the Campania region around Naples, Vincenzo De Luca, banned public parties and restricted the sale and consumption of food and alcohol in public places over the festive season, saying the measures were to avoid having to "close everything for months after New Year" due to the "madness of one week."

The flurry of local legislation in cities and regions across the country comes as Italy's health ministry on Wednesday registered 36,293 new covid infections over the previous 24 hours (up from 30,798 the day before) in what are the highest figures since November 2020.

Ahead of Thursday's meeting, Italian premier Mario Draghi hailed vaccines as "the best defense against the virus", urging "all citizens to continue getting vaccinated, to take the third dose."


For official information about the covid-19 situation in Italy - in English - see the health ministry website. Cover image: Castel S. Angelo, Rome. Photo credit: Salvatore Micillo / Shutterstock.com.