Italy set to tighten covid restrictions as number of new infections soars.
Italy's health ministry on Thursday registered 44,595 new covid infections in the last 24 hours (up from 36,293 the day before) in what are the highest figures since the start of the pandemic.
The previous record was on 13 November 2020 when 40,902 cases were reported, according to Italian news agency ANSA.
There were 168 covid-related deaths in the last 24 hours, while on 13 November last year they were 550.
The number of hospitalisations is also much lower in comparison to 2020: there are currently 1,023 people in intensive care while in November 2020 there were 3,230.
The news comes as the Italian government prepares to tighten its covid restrictions, with the measures set to be announced this evening, after new data shows that the highly transmissable Omicron variant is spreading rapidly in Italy.
Preliminary studies undertaken by Italy's higher health institute (ISS), announced earlier on Thursday, show that the Omicron variant accounted for 28 per cent of covid cases detected in the country on 20 December.
ISS president Silvio Brusaferro said the results confirm the "great speed" at which Omicron is spreading, estimating that it is "soon set to become the predominant variant" in Italy, as is the case elsewhere in Europe.
Brusaferro said the best measures to combat Omicron included getting vaccinated, wearing masks and keeping social interactions to a minimum.
More than 85 per cent of Italy's population over the age of 12 is now double-vaccinated, with 16.3 million people so far receiving the third 'booster' dose, according to the latest government data.
For official information about the covid-19 situation in Italy - in English - see the health ministry website. Cover image: Milan, December 2021. Photo credit: DELBO ANDREA / Shutterstock.com.