Italy adopts new restrictions as coronavirus cases surge

The Italian government on Sunday adopted a raft of new measures aimed at curbing a spike in new coronavirus cases, which have been doubling every week for three weeks.

“If this November we respect all these new rules we will be able to keep the epidemic curve under control… and face December, and the Christmas holidays with greater serenity,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told a press conference.

Under the new rules, bars and restaurants must close at 6 p.m., and can stay open later only for takeaway service. A maximum of four people can sit at a table together. Consuming food and drinks in public places will also be banned from 6 p.m.

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Cinemas, theaters, swimming pools, gyms have to close, although museums can remain open. Gatherings for weddings, baptisms and funerals are banned, as are all events and fairs. Distance learning will be applied in high schools for at least 75 percent of students.

Working remotely is strongly encouraged. Home visits from people other than relatives are strongly discouraged, as is leaving home for reasons other than work, study, health and emergencies. The measures enter into place from Monday and will last until November 24.

Conte has repeatedly said he wants to avert a full lockdown as experienced in the spring. He also announced that fresh economic support for businesses affected by the new measures is forthcoming.

The measures were agreed against a backdrop of social unrest. On Saturday night, riots erupted in the capital, where militants of neo-fascist party Forza Nuova decrying what they called “sanitary dictatorship” clashed with police. On Friday, hundreds protested in Naples against the announcement of a new regional lockdown by Vincenzo De Luca, the governor of the Campania region. De Luca has since backtracked, proposing instead to lock down only the area surrounding Naples.

“There are antagonistic groups who try to fuel clashes. We must be careful of infiltrations,” said Conte.

Campania, Lazio and Lombardy — the three regions with the most coronavirus cases in Italy — have adopted a nighttime curfew in an attempt to slow the pace of contagion.

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On Saturday, Italian health authorities announced cases had risen by 19,644 over the previous 24 hours, a new daily record. Patients in intensive care rose by 79 from Friday to 1,128.