ROME (AP) – Italy entered a three-day nationwide coronavirus lockdown on Saturday to deter Easter travel and gatherings, even as the surge in new infections driven by variants of the country began to wane.
The government had announced last month that it would place all regions in the strictest “red zone” blockade during the Easter weekend to limit the chances of contagion, taking the same precautions it enforced during Christmas and New Years. .
Travel between regions and visits to family members were limited until Monday. Non-essential stores were closed and restaurants and bars were only open for take out.
“People are tired, but they are aware that protecting health is essential in these times,” said Major Fabio Palletta, a Carabinieri military police officer who runs a checkpoint in Rome on Saturday, one of the many established across the country this weekend to ensure people on the roads were allowed to travel.
The Interior Ministry also ordered additional police foot patrols to break up large gatherings in squares and parks, which are often packed with picnic-goers at Easter.
“I’m glad they are doing checks. It means that something is working in this whole mess, ”said Amato Monatanari, who was detained for a check in Rome.
Italy, where the outbreak began in Europe, has recorded more than 110,000 deaths from COVID-19, more than any other European country except Great Britain. Another 21,000 infections were reported in Italy on Saturday, along with 376 deaths.
An estimated 87% of the newest cases in Italy have been traced to the highly contagious variant first detected in Britain. But the Health Ministry reported Friday that for the second week in a row, new cases had “slightly decreased.”
But because Italian hospitals in most regions are still well above their COVID-19 capacity in both intensive care units and other wards, the ministry concluded that new infections were still “too high. .. to allow for any reduction in current restrictive measures. “
Italians, however, are upset by the country’s shaky vaccination campaign, which despite promising to prioritize older people, has left many of Italy’s oldest and most vulnerable people behind, while teachers, police officers and other professional workers take their blows.
The Lombardy region, the largest in Italy, has suffered more infections and deaths from COVID-19 than any other, but has still had a vaccinated campaign faltering, earning a personal visit this week from Italy’s new virus czar, General Francesco Figliuolo.
“There are things that are not going well,” said Figliuolo. “We will take note of them and then we will fix them together.”
More than three months after Italy’s nationwide vaccination campaign, Lombardy this week opened a new centralized dating portal after its old system sent some seniors hundreds of kilometers (miles) from home to receive a prick and leave others unable to get a date.
The embattled Lombardy regional governor, Attilio Fontana, acknowledged “some difficulties” but insisted they had not affected the overall vaccination campaign. He said criticism of the regional effort was “nauseating.”
Italy has administered 10.8 million vaccines nationwide, although only 3.3 million of the country’s 60 million people have received both doses. Lombardy, which has a sixth of the population and has long prided itself on its health care system, has administered 1.7 million doses.
On Saturday in Sicily, a church temporarily opened its doors to become an emerging vaccination center.
“For Christians who celebrate Easter, today above all means being good and honest citizens,” said Rev. Michele Viviano, pastor of the Salesian parish of Don Bosco in San Gregorio di Catania, Sicily.
“This also means cooperating with the immunization campaign, participating in it and organizing it,” he said.
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