Italy ordered on Friday a partial lockdown nationwide for most of the Christmas holiday season in an effort to curb a rise in COVID-19 cases.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called the restrictions a ''painful decision'', citing concerns that gatherings of families and friends could re-ignite the virus's spread.
"The virus continues to circulate everywhere. We can bend it, but we cannot defeat it," Conte said. "This is why even among our experts there is a strong concern that the contagion curve could surge during the Christmas period.''
What's the context?
The move comes as Lombardy, Veneto and Lazio registered a rate of transmission of over 1, meaning the virus is again spreading in three key regions after weeks of decrease in the contagion curve.
Italy was the first Western country hit by the pandemic, and also has recorded the highest death toll in Europe, reaching nearly 67,900 on Friday.
What are the new rules?
The new decree puts strict limits on movements on holidays and weekends from December 21 through the January 6 Epiphany holiday, with a slight easing on four weekdays.
To allow a glimmer of Christmas cheer, personal visits to friends or family members of no more than two people are allowed on any given day.
The new restrictions will mean no Christmas lunches in restaurants, as had been foreseen in a previous decree, although take-out and deliveries are allowed. To soften the blow to a sector already devastated, the decree includes 645 million euros in aid.
The decree permits outings only for work, health reasons, and necessities like grocery shopping or going to the pharmacy. On four non-holiday weekdays, other stores will be open for business until 9 p.m. In addition, a 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew will remain in place throughout the duration.
Is Italy an exception?
Italy is the latest EU country to impose a Christmas lockdown.
The Netherlands entered a five-week lockdown on Tuesday.
Last week, Germany stepped up the country’s lockdown measures until January 10 to stop the country’s exponential rise of COVID-19 cases.
Austria announced on Friday it would go into its third coronavirus lockdown immediately after Christmas.