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COVID in Europe: Italy, France concerned over rising cases, Portugal plans to loosen restrictions

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By Louise Miner
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COVID in Europe: Italy, France concerned over rising cases, Portugal plans to loosen restrictions
Copyright  Andrew Medichini/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
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Several nations in Europe have expressed concern over rates of COVID-19, with some introducing new measures, while others have announced plans to loosen restrictions.

The government in Italy has labelled the whole nation as a "red zone" over the Easter weekend due to a hike in instances of the virus.

"They (the stricter measures) are necessary to avoid a worsening situation that would make even more stringent measures inevitable," said Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

"But these measures are accompanied by government action to support families and businesses and the acceleration of the vaccination campaign, which alone gives hope for the exit from the pandemic."

French Prime Minister Jean Castex has voiced concerns about the situation in the capital, Paris, with 95% of the beds in intensive care units in the region filled with COVID-19 patients.

The government says it's ready to impose further restrictive measures if need be.

More than 90,000 people have died from COVID so far in France.

In Greece, authorities on Friday announced 2,405 new cases of COVID-19 and 49 fatalities in the past 24 hours on Friday.

This means the country's total number of confirmed cases stands at 217,018, with 6,986 dead.

ICU units in Athens have also reached 95% capacity with COVID-19 patients.

There have been dozens of violent demonstrations in Greece, with the country's centre-right prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis saying political opponents had exploited lockdown fatigue.

The protests over the last month were sparked by multiple allegations of police brutality when enforcing a nightly curfew and other strict lockdown measures.

They were also triggered by a decision to launch police patrols on university campuses, and the government's refusal to intervene and grant a prison transfer to a convicted militant group gunman who was on hunger strike.

However, in Portugal, measures will gradually ease from next week with new cases at 577 on Friday after a peak of over 16,000 in January.

Children will be able to go back to daycare, pre-schools and primary schools, and some businesses will be able to open.

After two weeks, museums and small shops will also be able to open, while restaurants and cafes could potentially welcome members of the public after May 3.