The government of Italy is enforcing yet another curfew as it tries to curb a recent increase in coronavirus cases, which has been hampered by the presence of new strains.
From Monday, March 15, half of Italy’s 20 regions, including Rome, Milan, and Venice, will be subject to new coronavirus restrictions. According to a decree signed by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s cabinet on Friday, the steps will be in force until April 6.
People in “red zones” will be unable to leave their homes except for work or medical purposes, and all non-essential shops will be closed. People in “orange zones” would also be prohibited from leaving their town or city, except for work or medical reasons and bars and restaurants will only be able to do delivery and take-away services.
Depending on the extent of infection, infected areas will be colored red or orange. Regions that register weekly Covid-19 cases of more than 250 per 100,000 residents will be placed on lockout, which means that other areas will be affected during this period.
The aim of the steps, according to the health ministry, is to reduce the R rate (the number of people infected by a single infected person) to one.
Furthermore, from April 3 to 5, the entire country will be deemed a “red zone” and will be subject to a national lockdown.
New coronavirus initiatives are “required,” according to Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, because “we are sadly facing a new wave of infections” one year after the pandemic began.
According to the health ministry, the country’s R rate is now at 1.6, with coronavirus variants spreading the virus faster.
According to the health ministry, the variant B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, is now widespread in Brazil. They are also concerned about the presence of small clusters of the Brazilian variant.
The UK variant was first discovered to be more easily transmissible — and new evidence published in the medical journal the BMJ backs up UK officials’ statements that the variant could also be more lethal, based on preliminary data.
According to a modeling study published earlier this month by researchers in Brazil and the United Kingdom, the variant first identified in Brazil, known as P.1, could be up to 2.2 times more transmissible and could avoid immunity from previous Covid-19 infection by up to 61 percent.
The Prime Minister, speaking at a vaccination center near Rome’s Fiumicino airport on Friday, said he understands the social costs of lockdowns, but that the upcoming steps were appropriate to prevent the situation from worsening.
“I am well aware that today’s actions would have an effect on children’s education, the economy, and our collective psychological well-being,” Draghi said.
From March to May 2020, Italy was under a national lockdown, but there have been several regional lockdowns around the country since then. According to Draghi, there have been 150,175 new coronavirus infections in the last week, up nearly 15% from the previous week.
Italy registered over 25,000 new cases per day on Thursday alone. It was the highest level since November, with over 26,000 cases recorded on Friday. In the last two weeks, an additional 5,000 people have been admitted to hospitals with Covid-19, with the number of people in intensive care growing by more than 650, he said.
Even as Italy barred the use of vaccines from a particular batch of AstraZeneca doses following the death of a serviceman in Sicily who died of cardiac arrest one day after getting his first dose of the vaccine, the PM vowed to speed up the country’s vaccination program.
The suspension of that particular AstraZeneca batch by the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA), according to Draghi, was “a precautionary decision, in line with what has been done in other European countries.”
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is currently looking into whether the shot is related to a number of cases of blood clots.