Over 21mn Italians under curfew amid Covid-19 spike

Over 21.7 million Italians, making up over one-third of the country’s population, have been placed under curfew amid a spike in the number of new coronavirus cases, according to officials.

On Thursday, the country, one of the worst-hit by the pandemic in Europe, reported 13,860 new cases and 136 fatalities, which took the overall infection tally and death toll to 465,726 and 36,968, respectively, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Ministry of Health said that another 2,082 patients have recovered, bringing the total recoveries from Covid-19 to 259,456.

The northern Lombardy region, whose capital is Milan, has reported majority of the country’s cases with over 33,000 infected currently.

It is followed by the Campania region with more than 22,000 infections and Lazio with over 18,000 cases.

These same three regions, which together comprise over 21.7 million of Italy’s approximately 60 million citizens, have imposed night-time curfews — meaning that people cannot leave their home unless for provable emergencies, work or health-related reasons — in a bid to contain the spread of the virus.

The Lombardy region has declared a curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., which came into force on Thursday and will run through November 13.

The authorities in Lombardy also shut down supermarkets and shopping malls on weekends and automatic food and beverage distributors between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m. and banned people from drinking alcoholic beverages outdoors between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m.

In Lazio, whose capital is Rome, a 12 midnight to 5 a.m. 30-day curfew will go into effect on Friday.

The region has also decided to increase its Covid-19 hospital beds by 1,421 units, while 50 per cent of high school students and 75 per cent of university students will have to be taught remotely, starting from October 30 for a month.

In Campania, whose capital is Naples, authorities have prohibited residents from travelling between provinces starting Friday, and have set up a red zone around the town of Arzano, with no one allowed in or out and all businesses locked down until October 30.

Lombardy is Italy’s most populous region with 10,103,969 inhabitants. Lazio has 5,865,544 residents and Campania has a population of 5,785,861.

Also on Thursday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told the Lower House of Parliament that in light of “the sudden deterioration of the situation”, the government is now focused “exclusively on measures to limit social and recreational behaviours, which are currently the vehicle of the greatest diffusion of the virus”.

“We are still within the pandemic and the constant increase of infections obligates us to remain on extremely high alert… We must be ready to intervene again if necessary.

“In light of a resurgence of the virus, which has been ongoing for several weeks,” the Italian leader said, while urging the public to “make an effort to reduce the chances of infection, to avoid unnecessary trips and superfluous activities that could generate risk”.

“If we are willing to make these small sacrifices today, we will avoid stricter and more penalizing measures tomorrow,” Conte said, adding that the regional governments must be “ready to intervene” with more restrictions if local outbreaks get more serious.