The government of Prime Minister Mario Draghi is weighing new and strict restrictions for up to two-thirds of Italians, and regions that encompass the country’s largest cities are likely heading for closure amid a resurgence of the pandemic.
The adjustment would close the circle of Italy just over a year after it became the first Western country to go into lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Infections rose to a three-month high this week after the most contagious UK strain took hold amid a slow launch of the vaccine.
Draghi’s cabinet was due to meet at 11:30 am on Friday to decide whether to automatically designate regions as high-risk “red zones” if they have more than 250 weekly cases per 100,000 inhabitants, according to a draft of a new decree seen by Bloomberg. The draft is subject to change.
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The new decree would take effect from Monday and could send many regions, including those around Milan and Rome, into a total lockdown. The restrictions would remain in effect until April 6. During the Easter holidays, from April 3 to 5, all of Italy would be a “red zone”, except for the few areas with lower risk of contagion, according to the draft.
Combined with Restrictions already in place, the new measures could mean that as many as 14 of Italy’s 20 regions will be under the strictest level of controls. Bars and restaurants in these areas will be closed, as will schools and many stores. The citizens will be mostly confined to their homes. In medium-risk “orange areas”, two adults can visit a private home within their city once a day until April 2, the draft says.
With daily infections reaching a three-month high, Draghi, a former head of the European Central Bank, seeks to accelerate a lazy vaccination campaign to counter the pandemic and restart an economy that contracted 8.9% last year. The country registered 25,673 new cases on Thursday, compared with 22,409 the day before.
The prime minister has faced objections from two parties in his coalition, the Anti-Migrant League led by Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right Forza Italia, who had lobbied to reopen businesses in at least some areas.
Draghi on Friday at 3pm will visit a vaccination center at Fiumicino airport on the outskirts of Rome, where he will give a speech on the containment efforts. The administration aims vaccines for the summer for all Italians who want them. So far, 6.1 million doses of vaccines have been administered, and only 3% of the population is fully vaccinated.
The government is also working on plans to allocate around 10 billion euros ($ 12 billion) to extend support to the labor market, part of a larger package of 32 billion euros. The funds would be used to extend the ban on layoffs in the services sector until the end of the year and to finance other measures, including licensing.
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