Italy imposes new restrictions in fight against coronavirus

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People spill beer on the ground during a protest against the government's new restrictions, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Frances D'Emilio, Associated Press

At least a month of new restrictions have been imposed across Italy to fight rising coronavirus infections.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has insisted people keep wearing masks outdoors, while cinemas, gyms, pools have been closed and an early curfew has been set for bars, cafes and restaurants.

The new decree goes into effect on Monday and lasts until November 24.


(PA Graphics)

“Our aim is to protect health and the economy,” Mr Conte said on Sunday.

A day earlier, Italy passed the half-million mark in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases since February, when it became the first country to be stricken in Europe.

On Sunday, Italy registered 21,273 new confirmed cases and 128 deaths since the day before. Italy has reported a total of 37,338 virus deaths.

Restaurant and bar owners had lobbied hard against the new measures, which order them to close at 6pm daily.

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Most restaurants in Italy usually do not even start to serve dinner before 8pm so the restriction seriously cuts into revenues.

Cafes and restaurants were allowed to reopen in recent months after the spring lockdown for outdoor dining or limited indoor seating.


Flares explode as police clash with activists during a protest called by Forza Nuova far-right group against restrictions in Rome (Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/AP)

Mr Conte promised financial aid from his centre-left government as soon as November to the food sector and noted cafes and restaurants can do delivery and takeaway orders until midnight.

No more than four diners will be allowed per restaurant table before the curfew unless they are from the same family.

Under the new rules, ski slopes are off-limits to all but competitive skiers and all spectators are banned from stadiums during professional sports matches, including football/

Receptions after religious or civil ceremonies like weddings are forbidden.

The decree continues to exempt children younger than six and those exercising outdoors from wearing masks.

“We all have to do small sacrifices,” Mr Conte said.

“If we can’t go to the gym, we can exercise outdoors.”


Mr Conte kept elementary and middle schools open but said 75% of high school pupils must have remote classes.

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Crowding on public transport, especially since schools reopened last month, has concerned health authorities.

By early summer, after Italy’s lockdown was all but lifted, new virus caseloads had dropped to as low as 200 a day.

“We did it then, we can do it now,” Mr Conte said, warning that without any vaccine available “it’s not like we’ll all be able to hug each other” during the holidays.

Several Italian regions and cities recently slapped on overnight curfews to cut down on young people congregating outdoors, especially to drink.

On Friday, demonstrators in Naples protesting a 11pm to 5am curfew clashed with police.

On Saturday night, far-right and neo-fascist political groups led a similar protest in Rome against its curfew.

Mr Conte said he understands the frustration of citizens, whose incomes and way of life are being heavily hit by pandemic limitations.

“I’d feel anger, too, towards the government,” he said, but noted authorities had determined protests have also been fuelled by agitators.

Since early in the pandemic, masks have been required on Italy’s public transport and in indoor venues like supermarkets and other stores.

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