Rome and Italy’s business capital Milan will be plunged into the country’s toughest Covid-19 restrictions from Monday in a bid to stem the rising tide of infections, the health ministry said on Friday.
Milan’s Lombardy region, which was the epicenter of the pandemic in Europe, will be placed under the most restrictive health measures, which will now apply to more than half of Italy’s 20 regions and most of its population.
Lazio around Rome and a handful of other regions will also become “red zones”, meaning schools, restaurants and bars will be closed, with curfews in place from 10pm to 5am.
The whole of Italy will be designated a “red zone” from April 3 to 5 for Easter, and any region with more than 250 new Covid
-19 cases per 100,000 people will, in future, automatically enter the top level of health measures.
On Friday, the Italian Health Ministry said that in the week from March 1 through 7, the country’s average virus incidence rate increased to around 225 cases per 100,000, up from around 194 the week before.
In several regions, including Lombardy, that figure is higher than 300, while in the region of Emilia-Romagna it is over 400.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who has only been in the job a month, said on Friday that the county must be “extremely cautious” to protect lives and relieve pressure on the health service.
“The memory of what happened last spring is alive, and we will do everything to prevent it from happening again,” he told a press conference, referring to the outbreak of the pandemic in February last year which hit Italy particularly hard.
On Friday, Italy recorded a further 26,824 Covid
-19 cases and another 380 deaths, according to health ministry data. The country has registered over 101,000 deaths related to the coronavirus
since the start of the pandemic.